As if blowing his fifth save of the season in Saturday’s loss wasn’t cruel enough, Fernando Rodney had to share Tropicana Field on Sunday with the greatest closer in the history of the game and another pitcher who built a Hall of Fame career on saves.
But who better to understand Rodney’s current state than Mariano Rivera of the Yankees and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, who was in the building as part of the TBS broadcasting crew.
“Sometimes you make mistakes and you have to correct them,” said Rivera, whose 626 career saves are the most in baseball history. “Many other times they just hit you, flat out hit you. That’s the game of baseball. You’re not invincible. If you pitch, you’re going to get hit. It’s as simple as that.”
Eckersley, sixth on the all-time saves list with 390, said it’s hard for a closer to ignore the fact he let his team down when he blows a save. The better they can forget a rough outing, the quicker they can bounce back.
“When you do them in clumps, you’re in trouble because all the attention comes right at you,” Eckersley said. “And because of what he did last year, it’s inevitable that something’s going to go wrong. You just hope it doesn’t come in threes or whatever the heck it is.”
Rodney said before Sunday’s 8-3 win that his confidence hasn’t waned.
“I have my confidence,” Rodney said. “That’s most important, try to be myself. If that happens, that’s fine, I know tomorrow and the next day I have my stuff and I can do that.”
Manager Joe Maddon backed Rodney after Saturday’s loss, saying Rodney will remain the closer.
“I think it’s too early to make a decision because he knows that I’m trying, trying to be better, trying to get outs, try to get the strikeouts, try to take the ball,” Rodney said.
Eckersley said he noticed Rodney is not commanding his fastball as well as he did in 2012, when he saved 48 games in 50 chances.
“He’s a little off, a tick, and then you give him a couple of cheap hits (Saturday),” Eckersley said. “But he’s been doing it for a while. He’s in the right environment for it. Hey, when you’re good like that, they come after you. Don’t be so good.”