Fernando Rodney assured the Twins during his rough April, when he blew three save opportunities in a row, that his results would be different eventually. He was right — but he hasn’t stopped saying it. This time, the Twins hope he’s wrong.
“I know it’s good today, but maybe it can be bad tomorrow,” Rodney said after striking out all three Brewers he faced on Sunday to collect his seventh consecutive save, and ninth overall. “If you keep fighting, you see what happens.”
What’s happened is that Rodney has thrown more strikes and utilized more changeups, a formula he has stuck to for 16 major league seasons and 309 career saves. Rodney has a streak of nine scoreless innings, a nice change after allowing runs in half of his first eight outings.
“I’ve been feeling better and better. More important, my location on all my pitches has been very good,” Rodney said. “I believe in myself. I know what I can do. I just trust it.”
His teammates do, too.
“He’s pretty amazing. Sometimes he gets a bad rap, but he’s one of the first guys in here working out every day, he’s one of the last guys every day. That guy works harder than anybody I’ve ever seen, and that’s in my opinion the reason why he’s been around so long,” said Bobby Wilson, who first caught Rodney when they were Angels teammates in 2010. “It’s a shame that people who just see him on the mound give him a bad time. If they saw the teammate that he is, how hard he works, they’d have a different opinion.”
Byron Buxton knows that hitting success, so hard for him to find consistently, comes down to not swinging defensively. His manager reminded him of that this weekend.
Twins manager Paul Molitor held a private meeting with the 24-year-old outfielder on Saturday, and kept him out of the lineup to regroup.
“I tried to affirm him about his ability to hit,” Molitor said. “He knows that [he fails] when he puts too much pressure on himself and overthinks his at-bats. It seems like every time he’s up there, he’s behind in one way or another; either he fouls the ball off, or he takes a good pitch.”
That’s a deadly habit for any hitter, but particularly for Buxton this year. He doesn’t have a hit this year, not one, when two of the first three pitches are strikes: He’s 0-for-16 after the count reaches 0-2, and 0-for-25 after falling behind 1-2. There is some overlap in those at-bats, but the point remains: If Buxton falls behind quickly, his at-bat is essentially over.
“It’s getting counts to be aggressive on. I’m more of an attacker than a person to be patient,” Buxton said. “I’m just trying to get a good pitch to hit early in the [count].”
That’s the message that Molitor used to reassure his young outfielder. “You talk to anybody who goes through a seven- [or] 10-day stretch up here, they’re going to tell you, ‘I feel like I’m always hitting in the hole,’ ” Molitor said. “I always think 0-and-0 is a hitter’s count. … He’s got to make sure that he owns something early.”
On the mend
• Joe Mauer stayed away from the ballpark again Sunday in an effort to avoid the return of concussion symptoms, but he plans to be at Target Field on Monday to be evaluated again, Molitor said.
• Miguel Sano walked, struck out and grounded out in three plate appearances for Class AAA Rochester on Sunday, and played five innings at third base. Sano, on a rehab assignment as he recovers from a strained hamstring, is scheduled to serve as the Red Wings’ designated hitter on Monday.