When manager Paul Molitor relieved Fernando Romero in the fifth inning Sunday with runners on second and third, he chose an unexpected pitcher: Closer Fernando Rodney, who had not appeared before the sixth inning since 2005.

It felt like an extreme move, to use his best pitcher in a critical situation, or perhaps a chance to showcase the 41-year-old for scouts from teams considering a trade.

And the move was brilliant: Rodney threw a 95-mph fastball, struck out Carlos Gomez on an 83-mph changeup, and ended the inning on a harmless grounder.

Molitor had a confession after the game, however. “To be honest with you, it wasn’t about [strategy]. He needs to be in Miami for an immigration hearing [Monday] morning” that he couldn’t reschedule, the manager said.

So Rodney had to leave by 3:30 to catch a flight.

In fact, Rodney reported via Instagram that he became a U.S. citizen on Monday:

"After 19 years in this wonderful country today I am blessed to say that I am an official US Citizen. Today I fly the American Flag but in my heart always hold my Dominican Flag. I want to thank all those who have been with me throughout the process and especially thank the @twins organizations for allowing me to catch my flight. Big thanks to the @tigers who made this dream possible 19 years ago."

“It worked out pretty well because he got a couple of really big outs,” Molitor said.

Romero, who gave up 10 hits and four runs, was sent back to Class AAA Rochester after the game.

phil.miller@startribune.com