KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Fernando Rodney faced seven batters, threw 25 pitches and recorded four outs on Monday night, all season-highs for the 41-year-old Twins closer. Those are the sort of numbers that make Paul Molitor leery of calling upon Rodney a day later.
But with the Twins losing four straight games around an off day, Rodney had had plenty of rest before Molitor’s eighth-inning summons in the Twins’ 8-5 victory, Rodney’s 11th save. So the manager approached him Tuesday, and determined that Rodney will be ready if the occasion presents itself tonight, the second of three games at Kauffman Stadium.
“I talked to him. He’s going good,” Molitor said. “We kind of talked through last night,” about how Molitor plans to make eighth-inning usage a rarity, “but he was fine with it.”
Rodney had not retired more than three batters since Sept. 16, 2016, while he was with the Marlins in a mostly non-closer role. He hadn’t saved a game by getting four outs since June 21, 2016, while a Padre.
But the 16-year veteran is baseball’s second oldest player (behind 45-year-old Bartolo Colon), and handles some of the most important innings for the Twins, so Molitor is being careful with his usage. “I’m not going to go crazy with his usage, but he’s definitely capable of going out there and giving me three outs tonight.”
It’s not just Rodney, of course. Keeping bullpen arms fresh is a central part of a manager’s job these days, and Molitor is constantly mindful of it.
“We’ve been using some guys multiple days. [Zach] Duke’s been out there three days in a row, Pressly too, even though his [pitch counts] have been down,” Molitor said. “You try to be smart about that. If you need an out to get off the field or shut down an inning, you might consider those guys, but you have to protect guys after three days in a row.”
Perhaps Kyle Gibson won’t need any help from the bullpen. He pitched eight shutout innings in this ballpark back in 2015. Gibson is on the mound again tonight, with plenty of family and friends in the crowd, as the Twins play the second of a three-game series. Here are the lineups: