The next installment in this series focuses on sporadic reliever Fernando Rodney.
The current state of the Tigers' bullpen is not what fans have been hoping for. This will mark the second season now that the Tigers have been desperate for quality relief pitching.
Enter Fernando Rodney. You'll get quality pitching from him—depending on the day of the week.
Every time the signal goes to the bullpen and Rodney comes trotting in, you never know which Rodney you are getting on the mound. It could be the brilliant one who strikes out the side with well placed 96 mph fastballs, deceptive changeups, and sharp breaking sliders.
This is the Fernando Rodney who makes opposing hitters look meek while ensuring a smooth seventh and eighth inning.
Just as likely, we end up seeing the other Fernando Rodney. This is the one who walks the bases loaded because he can't throw a strike. The one with an uncontrollable fastball, a weak changeup that falls out of the strike zone, and a slider that fools no one.
This is the definition of inconsistent. Sporadic.
But, alas, this is the current state of the Tiger bullpen.
On any given night, Rodney could be called upon to take the mound with a slim lead in the seventh, eighth, or ninth inning. He could shine and make Jim Leyland look like a genius, preserve the lead, and help win the game. Or he could implode and watch the number in his "L" column grow higher.
It goes without saying that this is not the kind of uncertainty one desires to have in their bullpen. Then again, do the Tigers have many other options?
Not really. Joel Zumaya has been injured the past two seasons, limiting him to a total of 57 innings. If healthy this year, he has to prove that 2006 was not a one-hit-wonder, as so many rookie campaigns can be.
Brandon Lyon is not much better. What happened to him in the second half of last season? He absolutely caved in, losing the job of closer to Chad Qualls.
Consequently, spring training has turned into open auditions for the closer job in Detroit. I wish all candidates the best of luck, especially Fernando Rodney.
Rodney needs to work on his consistency. Step on the rubber, get the sign, and fire a strike to the catcher's mitt. Don't think about it, just do it.
I know I am oversimplifying the solution for Rodney, but it could be that he is over-complicating everything on the mound.
Don't think, just pitch.
2006 was a pretty good year for Rodney. He compiled an .196 opponents' batting average and 65Ks in 72 innings.
A return to that would be great for the Tigers' late inning relief, and it would probably be enough for him to hold onto the closer job (even though I feel that the setup men are actually more crucial, but that is for a different article).
The end result of Fernando Rodney could be this: if he dominates, the Tigers' win total dominates as well.
As a last thought, however, I am going to play devil's advocate to my piece on Rick Porcello: maybe Porcello is ready. Ready for the 9th inning.