KRod Still Closing Strong for Brew Crew


Much like the Phillies, the Milwaukee Brewers haven’t done a whole lot of winning this season. The team has 28 victories in 75 games, and you don’t need to be a math expert to realize that’s not good. However, if there is one positive thing the Brewers and their fans can point to this season, it’s the performance of the team’s 33-year-old closer, Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez.

Though the team only has those 28 wins, K-Rod has been able to consistently slam the door shut in the ninth inning when called upon. He currently is the owner of an even flat 1.00 ERA, and has converted all 15 of his save opportunities in 2015.

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Signed out of Venezuela as an amateur free agent by the Los Angeles Angels in 1998 at the age of 16, Rodriguez ultimately developed into one of the top relief pitchers in the game during his time in Southern California. After spending four minor league seasons in the Angels system, he got his shot in the big leagues on September 18, 2002, striking out two in a scoreless inning in relief.

Rodriguez would join the club on a full season basis starting in 2003, and settled into a relief role—one in which he thrived, as the primary setup man to closer Troy Percival, who held down the team’s closer spot.

Rodriguez established himself as a reliable late-inning option in 2004, when he went 4-1 with a 1.82 ERA in 69 appearances, recording 12 saves in limited opportunities. In 84 innings, Rodriguez struck out 123 batters. He was named to the American League All-Star team, and came in fourth in the AL Cy Young voting.

When Percival’s contract ran up after the 2005 season, the Angels felt comfortable letting him leave for the Detroit Tigers in free agency and handed over the closer’s role to the then-23-year-old Rodriguez.

In his first year as the closer in 2005, K-Rod would not disappoint, tying for the AL lead with 45 saves in 50 opportunites. From 2005-2008, Rodriguez notched 194 of a possible 216 saves (89% success), the most saves by any closer in MLB during that time. He compiled a remarkable 2.35 ERA in 276 innings and tallied 356 punchouts.

In three of the four seasons, K-Rod led the AL in saves, and in 2008, he set a single-season MLB record for Saves with 62. Rodriguez also was named to three AL All-Star teams and finished in the top five of the AL Cy Young voting two of the four years.

K-Rod was granted free agency after the 2008 season, and was one of the most, if not the most, sought after free agent entering the 2008 offseason. With much buzz and speculation surrounding him as to where he would sign, Rodriguez eventually agreed a 3-year, $37 million contract with the New York Mets, who were in desperate need of a reliable ninth inning hurler. The deal was the biggest for a closer at the time of the signing. Rodriguez would leave the Angels with the 2nd most saves in franchise history, with 216.

Moving to the National League for the 2009 season, Rodriguez picked up right where he left off in Anaheim, closing out half of the 70 Met victories that year. The righty fireballer even made the National League All-Star team, his fourth All-Star selection. However, in 2010, while he was still an effective pitcher, K-Rod’s overall production would dip, recording only 25 saves in a shortened season marred by an incident in which he allegedly assaulted a family member after a game.

After earning 23 saves with the Mets through the first three and a half months in 2011, Rodriguez was shipped off to the Brewers in mid-July. The Brewers, who were in the middle of a division race with the St. Louis Cardinals, hoped Rodriguez would be a valuable piece to help bolster their bullpen down the stretch and in the playoffs.

With John Axford as their closer, the Brewers asked K-Rod to step into a setup role, which he took to without issue. He ended the regular season with the Brewers owning a perfect 4-0 record, striking out 33 batters in 29 innings, and holding a 1.86 ERA. On their playoff journey to the National League Championship Series, K-Rod tossed five innings of relief, giving up one run and striking out eight.

Rodriguez endured a mediocre 2012 season (2-7, 4.38 ERA), however, and became a free agent at the end of the year. Unable to find another deal he was interested in, he would return to Milwaukee in April of 2013 to fill in for closer Jim Henderson, and joined the 300 save club by closing out the Atlanta Braves on June 22, 2013. Saving 10 games in place of Henderson, K-Rod was again traded—this time to the Baltimore Orioles, with whom he finished the season with.

Again searching for a club for 2014, K-Rod came back once again to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, and turned in a solid campaign that resulted in his fifth All-Star Game selection. He racked up 44 saves in 49 opportunities, pitching to a 3.04 ERA, and struck out 73 in 68 innings.

Showing the Brew Crew he still had plenty of gas left in the tank, they re-upped with him on a two-year deal this past February. He’s been even better than last year so far this season, accumulating 32 K’s in 27 innings of relief, and has given up a total of three earned runs.

He enters this series against the Phillies on fire in the month of June, collecting 7 of his 15 saves in 9 games this month. Dating back to May 31, K-Rod has 10 consecutive scoreless outings, and has given up just four hits in those outings, fanning 12.

“I’d be disappointed if I get traded, because I signed two years-plus just to be here. If I didn’t believe this ballclub would be better and compete in the future, I would have gone someplace else” ~ KRod on trade rumors

With the Brewers struggling they way they are, Rodriguez is likely auditioning for contending teams looking for a veteran, shutdown reliever, and could boost his value with a couple saves in this series. Rodriguez certainly fits the aforementioned criteria. His 15 saves are eight best in the NL, and he could be the Brewers lone representative in the upcoming All-Star Game.

The Blue Jays, who have previously been linked to Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, remain interested in Rodriguez, but like Papbelbon, his contract is said to be an issue for teams. Still, teams should realize that Rodriguez is well worth the money. He presently ranks ninth in MLB history with 363 saves, and is just four saves away from moving up to eighth all-time.

Rodriguez has also shown he is more than capable of pitching in big playoff games, too. Between the Angels and Brewers, he has 26 games of playoff experience, and has done relatively well, posting a 2.95 ERA in 36.2 innings.

Despite the trade talk, Rodriguez told Andrew Gruman of Fox sports Wisconsin that he wants to stay in Milwaukee, and believes his team can turn things around.

“I’d be disappointed if I get traded,” Rodriguez said. “Because I signed two years-plus just to be here. If I didn’t believe this ballclub would be better and compete in the future, I would have gone someplace else. I had different options I could have gone with. But at the end of the day, it is something that is out of my hands. I don’t make the decisions. But definitely it is there. You have to think about it, unfortunately.”

Rodriguez will likely make an appearance at some point in the four games between the two lowly teams at Citizens Bank Park starting Monday. In his 30 games over his career against the Phillies, Rodriguez is 1-3 with a 2.87 ERA, and has converted 13 of his 15 save opportunities against them. No current Phillies has more than two career hits off Rodriguez.

The 4-game set begins Monday at 7:05 at Citzens Bank Park with the Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson opposing the Phillies’ Sean O’Sullivan.