DETROIT — Fernando Rodney was intrigued by the looks of the Tigers’ bullpen cart — the flames detailed on the front, the white-wall tires — but he wasn’t sure it was for him. So he asked the driver a question.
“How long is the ride going to take?” Rodney said he asked. “You go around the field? He said, ‘No, you can cross the field.’ So that was good.”
Rodney got in, put his feet up on the front console, and took a relaxing ride across his old home ballpark. The cart, sponsored by a local casino, is available to all pitchers, though few accept the ride. Neither Ryan Pressly, Zach Duke or Trevor Hildenberger rode to the mound for the Twins on Tuesday, and only Alex Wilson, among the three Tigers relievers used, took the ride.
The cart drove straight across center field and pulled up at the edge of the infield dirt, where Rodney got out and walked to the mound.
“First time. I’ve never done that before,” Rodney said. “It’s a nice ride. For me, I wanted to enjoy the moment.”
He’s enjoyed a lot of them lately. Rodney quickly retired all three Tiger hitters he faced to record his 14th save of the season, and 314th of his career, tying him with former Marlin and Giant Robb Nen for 21st on the all-time list. It was also Rodney’s 12th consecutive save, exactly halfway to his longest save streak, a 24-gamer with the Tigers in 2008-09.
Rodney, who collected 70 of those saves with the Tigers, has been particularly hard on his old team. By getting a fly ball and two strikeouts on Tuesday, Rodney lowered his lifetime ERA against Detroit to 0.94.
Paul Molitor penciled Miguel Sano into the cleanup spot for the first time this season on Tuesday, and he was encouraged by the results. The slumping slugger took a 3-2 slider to draw a walk in the seventh inning, then provided an insurance run in the eighth with a run-scoring single to the opposite field.
“Just looking for baby steps,” Molitor said of Sano, who is 6-for-33 in June. “He kind of cued one out to right field. But he’s really making an effort with his early work to try and keep it in the field a little bit better. Anything that builds confidence. You’ve got to start somewhere.