The Rays have been in the playoffs three of the past four years, and in each of those seasons they used a different closer. This year they planned to let Kyle Farnsworth repeat his 2011 role, but the incumbent closer developed a strained elbow and began the season on the disabled list, where he remains.
What to do?
“When we knew Farnsworth was down, it was a matter of evaluating the people who had been in that role before,” said Gerry Hunsicker, senior vice president of baseball operations, then speaking of manager Joe Maddon added, “As Joe usually does, he goes night to night. (Fernando) Rodney had a power arm and experience at closing so he was going to get the ball at least occasionally. Then he just went with the hot hand.” ...
“Most of the time,” Hunsicker said, “unlike starters, closers usually come out of being developed; they are not developed by design.”
Rodney, he added, “is the classic example of guys we try to find every year, guys that everybody gives up on. But they are looking for jobs and come to our team for an opportunity. Rodney was on a successful team in Detroit and pitched meaningful innings.”
Rodney also came at the right price – $2 million for one guaranteed year and an option for a second year. That amount is more than a third less than the major league average salary. ...
“It’s almost a revolving door unless you’re talking about the elite guys like Rivera,” Hunsicker said. “We know probably every year we’re going to have to rebuild our bullpen. Rodney has the physical ability to close. Certain things prevented him from holding that job in the past. A lot of people didn’t have confidence to put him in that role. We decided to roll the dice.”