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Rays notes: Rodney confident he'll find his groove

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Published:   |   Updated: May 18, 2013 at 12:12 AM
BALTIMORE -

Closer Fernando Rodney said he is the same pitcher he was last season, when he turned in a season for the ages.

So what's wrong?

He can't locate his fastball.

“The only thing I saw that I can tell you guys, I think the fastball location is not exactly what I want, what I'm looking for. It's going to be better,” Rodney said before Friday's game with the Orioles. “Sometimes I think I try to do too much and try to pull the ball in the strike zone. I'm going to keep working. I'm going to get it soon.”

Rodney blew his third save in 10 tries Thursday when he walked the bases loaded and allowed a three-run double to Boston's Will Middlebrooks during the ninth inning of the Rays' 4-3 loss on a change-up over the heart of the plate.

Rodney blew only two saves in 50 opportunities in 2012.

Of his 35 pitches Tuesday, only 16 were for strikes. He threw 18 fastballs, six for strikes.

Rodney has walked 15 batters in 16 games. He walked 15 in 76 appearances in 2012.

“The biggest difference, obviously, is the strike zone,” Maddon said. “Velocities and change-ups and usage and all that stuff is pretty similar to what he had done last year. It's just walking folks, putting people on and not having them earning it. For my money, from watching it, I think it's more what he's thinking right now.”

Both Rodney and Maddon said Rodney hasn't change anything on the mound. He positions himself on the rubber the same way as last season. His mechanics are the same.

As for what he's thinking? Rodney's thinking he will find the groove that worked so well in 2012.

Rodney said he isn't suffering from a 2012 hangover, nor is he still feeling the effects of his workload in the World Baseball Classic.

“What happened last year is something I can't say how it happened. How I threw the ball was unbelievable last year,” Rodney said. “This year is a tough year early in the season, but I feel certain I'll come back and do my job like I'm supposed to do.”

He walked Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz to begin the ninth but thought he righted himself when he struck out Mike Napoli. Even after the third walk, Rodney said he was confident he was going to get out of the jam.

“When I got the bases loaded, I know I can do it. That's what I got on my mind. OK, get this guy out, get a strikeout of this guy, because I need it. I don't want them to score a run,” he said. “The pitch did not go where it was supposed to go. I think it was the worst change-up of my career. I think so. It stayed right in the middle.”

Maddon said it's too early in the season to begin worrying about the closer. He said he's going to keep using Rodney and is confident the 2012 All-Star will return to form.

“So let's just see if he can get it down to some really outstanding numbers by the end of the year and forget about these two moments in early May,” Maddon said.

Monday's starter Maddon said he might not name Monday's starter until Sunday morning. The candidates are Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome, Alex Torres and Chris Archer. Odorizzi is the favorite because he is pitching on the same schedule as David Price.

Noteworthy Player rep Matt Moore said the Rays and Royals have yet to settle on a date for their make-up game. Moore said the teams submitted June 3 to the league office but have yet to hear anything. Moore said the Rays would prefer to play July 29, because they have an off day three days later. … Brian Anderson will join Dick Stockton on this afternoon's Fox telecast. … Thursday was the third time the Rays blew a ninth-inning lead this season. It was the eighth time they blew a lead in the eighth inning or later. … Alex Cobb said the dugout exchange between he and Maddon on Thursday that was caught on camera was nothing more than he and Maddon talking loudly about the same thing.

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