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Arizona Diamondbacks: Fernando Rodney Ready as Closer

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Fernando Rodney Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Fernando Rodney Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Closer Fernando Rodney of the Arizona Diamondbacks wants the ball in the ninth inning.

The first impression manager Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks receives is the one which will project through the up-coming season.

When closer Fernando Rodney walked into the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse and greeted Lovullo on Thursday, his showed his sense of humor and radiant smile. More compelling, Lovullo said Thursday, was Rodney’s desire to get the baseball in the ninth inning. At 40 years old and a veteran of 14 major league seasons, Rodney enters into a situation where the expectations are not great. In that regard, Lovullo will certainly grant his wish.

Coming off a season where the Diamondbacks were seven losses short of 100 defeats, Rodney’s experience is wanted. Among a plethora of reasons for this result, the starting rotation was in disarray and the bullpen porous. After trading closer Brad Ziegler to the Boston Red Sox in mid-season, the Diamondbacks had no bonafide closer and ended the season with a jumbled bullpen.

In search of strength and give young players time to develop, general manager Mike Hazen went out and signed Rodney as his closer. Coming to his eighth major league team, Rodney remains confident in his ability to lead a marginal bullpen, and gain results.

“I have a chance to pitch in 60, 65 games,” Rodney said in the clubhouse. “If I can do that, then I know I’ll do well.”

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Splitting last season between San Diego and Miami, Rodney appeared in a combined 67 games and averaged 54.7 appearances over the course of his career. Listed at 5-11 and 230 pounds, Rodney appears more compact than this weight distribution might indicate. Pointing out his strength is fine,  there is no issue with durability, noting, “I’m a young 40-year-old.”

Maintaining a solid, off-season conditioning program, Rodney indicated his diet is a major factor why he feels strong and ready for the marathon just ahead.

“I try to eat healthy,” he said. “I don’t go to restaurants, and stay away from things like ice cream and pizza. I eat a lot of fish, rice, beans and drink plenty of water.”

Rodney’s coming off a mixed 2016 season.

With the Padres, he went 0-1 with 17 saves and a 0.31 ERA in 28 games. Then, San Diego general manager A. J. Preller dealt Rodney to the Marlins for right-hander Chris Paddack, a 20-year-old prospect, whose season ended right after the trade. Paddack underwent Tommy John surgery last summer and will miss the 2017 season.

In the meantime, Rodney’s time in South Florida was less than ostentatious. Appearing in 39 games, Rodney went 3-4, eight saves but his ERA ballooned to 5.89.

When he became available as a free agent, Hazen did not hesitate to sign Rodney and subsequently anoint the native of Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, as the Diamondbacks’ closer.

Next: Conger signs a minor league contract

From the clubhouse 

On Thursday, Lovullo said all players reported to camp with no issues. Rodney was delayed three days because of paperwork involving his quest to the become a citizen of the United States. Lovullo said outfielder David Peralta would miss a few days next week going over similar documentation as Rodney. Lovullo said bench coach Ron Gardenhire, who will miss four to six weeks for surgery and recovery from prostate cancer, will be replaced by an internal candidate. Lovullo would not name names and said this is for the short-term until Gardenhire returns.

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