BALTIMORE – This isn’t how Fernando Rodney wanted his 16th major league season, with his ninth major league team, to begin.
The Twins’ new closer wasn’t presented with a typical modern save situation on Thursday, but with something more old-fashioned, and significantly more difficult: a crisis. He arrived in a 2-2 game in the 10th inning after Trevor Hildenberger walked Colby Rasmus and intentionally walked Chris Davis, after a sacrifice bunt had put Rasmus on second.
“They called to the bullpen and I prepared myself to win the game,” Rodney said of manager Paul Molitor’s call, relatively unusual for a pitcher who was used only 16 times in non-save situations last season. “I felt good. Good stuff.”
That it was, even though the situation briefly got worse. Manny Machado blooped his first-pitch slider right in front of Eddie Rosario in center, and when Rosario scooped up the ball, he discovered nobody covering second base; shortstop Eduardo Escobar eventually made it there, but Davis just beat Rosario’s throw.
But with the bases loaded and Rosario stationed in the infield in hopes of cutting off any ground balls, Rodney made a good pitch to Jonathan Schoop, who grounded it hard to Escobar at short.
That triggered a short-to-catcher-to-first double play, and set off boos in Camden Yards.
“I just thought that was our best chance to get out of it,” Molitor said of summoning Rodney. “I didn’t want to waste that bullet.”
Despite the rescue, though, Rodney couldn’t pull out the win. His lone pitch in the 11th inning was hammered into the left field seats by Adam Jones. The 41-year-old veteran wasn’t despondent afterward, though. Rodney has been through this before.
“It’s no big deal. We played hard for 11 innings,” Rodney said. “When you play 11 innings and play as hard as we did and lose by one run, it’s no big deal. … It happens.”
It’s the wind (maybe)
Rosario has a theory. But even he isn’t really buying it.
“The wind was different today,” Rosario said. “I don’t know, maybe? But I felt good.”
Rosario smashed a second-inning Dylan Bundy pitch over the right field fence Thursday, but not far enough over it. Craig Gentry jumped at the wall and snagged it, keeping the game scoreless.
“[Brian] Dozier’s ball, and [Joe Mauer’s] ball and Rosey’s ball — three of your first four hitters get them to the track, and we just couldn’t push one over,” Molitor said with a shrug. “That was a nice play by Gentry.”
• Mauer went 1-for-5 on Thursday but set a new franchise record with his 14th Opening Day start. Mauer tied Harmon Killebrew’s record of 13 openers with the Twins last year. “It’s pretty special. A lot of emotions, you know,” the 34-year-old Mauer said. “I woke up this morning anxious, nervous, excited, but I knew that’s a good thing, because it’s Opening Day. To do it for 14 years here is pretty special.”
• Righthander Ervin Santana’s hopes of returning in April from finger surgery appear unrealistic, Molitor said. Early or mid-May is more likely. Santana has been throwing soft balls into a pitch-back machine, and hopes to switch to playing catch with hardballs soon. “We probably may be a tad behind where we thought we’d be, but not significantly,” he said.
• Phil Hughes, on the disabled list with a strained oblique, will pitch a minor league game, perhaps as soon as Saturday, Molitor said, in hopes of keeping the righthander on track to return in time to start April 11.