LOS ANGELES – On the same day the Seattle Mariners fired general manager Jack Zduriencik, Fernando Rodney showed up in the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium.
“I really don’t know what happened this year,” Rodney said Friday. “They put a big team (together) to win and we didn’t start (fast). On paper, we were good. But when we went out to the field, it was a different team.”
The Cubs hope they can help Rodney rediscover what made him so dominant last season in Seattle, leading the majors with 48 saves and closing his final 21 chances to finish with a 94.1 percent conversion rate.
The Mariners designated Rodney for assignment this week after he put up a 5.68 ERA in 54 appearances, trading the 38-year-old right-hander to the Cubs on Thursday for a cash consideration.
“I know I have my stuff,” Rodney said, believing some of the issues could be traced back to not getting enough regular work on a non-contender. “That’s a little complicated for me.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon watched Rodney with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012, when he made the American League All-Star team and showed up in the MVP and Cy Young voting. Rodney finished with 48 saves and a 0.60 ERA in 74-plus innings.
“I’m eager to watch him play,” Maddon said. “I know that he did have some struggles this year. We did some research on it, so we were able to like drill in a little bit, try to figure out what the differences were, and we have some ideas.
“He had the most significant year of a relief pitcher ever when we had him in Tampa Bay.”
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Rodney is the next project for pitching coach Chris Bosio and bullpen coach Lester Strode as the Cubs deal with a rotation that isn’t throwing enough innings after Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta and a group of relievers on the disabled list (Jason Motte, Neil Ramirez and Rafael Soriano).
This is a low-risk move that could lead to Rodney celebrating by shooting imaginary arrows into the Wrigleyville sky.
“I think it’s fun,” Maddon said. “Anybody that’s offended by it…when the game’s over, I go in the clubhouse. I don’t look at any of that stuff anyhow. Celebrate how you wish. None of that bothered me. I thought it was kind of entertaining.”