Fernando Rodney has an excellent changeup. It comes in 8-10 miles per hour slower than his fastball, and flummoxes hitters.
He has thrown his changeup an average of 35.4 percent in his career. But this year, he has thrown it only 18.6 percent of the time. Meanwhile, his fastball usage is sitting at a career high rate of 78.3 percent.
It appears to be a toxic ratio, because he has blown three saves and has a 5.87 ERA. He did earn his third save with the Twins on Saturday, pitching around a pair of ninth-inning walks.
Rodney has a reason.
“Sometimes early in the season, I don’t like to use that pitch too much,” he said. “Sometimes because of the weather, and the hitters sometimes are late on the fastball.”
He went through it last season with Arizona, posting a 12.60 ERA in April but 2.38 the rest of the way. The 41-year-old’s 4.16 career ERA in late March/April is his second highest of any month. He is indicating that he increases the use of his changeup as the season progresses and the weather improves.
On Saturday, four of Rodney’s 19 pitches were changeups. Adam Duvall fouled one off for a strike before flying out. The other three missed the plate.
The Twins appear willing to allow Rodney to stick with his routine. “Historically, he has started off slow,” pitching coach Garvin Alston said. “He’s a veteran. He’s going to be fine. His changeup will be there. His fastball will be there.”