What To Do About Rodney And The Bullpen
Admittedly, I don’t have a simple solution for it. A few weeks earlier, I advocated that the Tigers bring up a young pitcher or two from the minor leagues and use them in relief roles. I still think that may help, but their biggest problem right now isn’t long relief (although that hasn’t been good, either), but a setup man. If the starter gives the Tigers seven good innings, who do they turn to during the eighth inning of a close game? The answer just can’t keep being Fernando Rodney.
I hear people say Rodney has always struggled. That is not true. He was pretty good for the Tigers last season. And he was their setup man for most of the season, not Joel Zumaya, although I thought the roles should have been reversed many times (Zumaya would pitch the seventh). I don’t agree with those who think Rodney should be sent to the minors or released. I do believe, however, he should be moved back to where he isn’t pitching with the game on the line. Where he can work an inning or two and stretch out a little bit. I do wonder if he is healthy. I had Dan Petry on my radio show Thursday night, and he said it looked like Rodney may be slowing down his delivery and tipping off his change up. Whatever, his velocity is down and the command of his fastball is spotty.
Trades for bullpen help are risky and seem to seldom work. Bullpen help usually comes from within. Even closers just kind of appear. Remember Bobby Jenks with the White Sox? There are some decent relief pitchers on bad teams - Eric Gagne and Akinori Otsuka from the Rangers and Chad Cordero from the Nationals. All are expensive in terms of salary. Each would cost more in terms of players than maybe what the Tigers have to offer among prospects not named Cameron Maybin. The Tigers veteran pitching has little trade value. I just don’t see it happening.
Adding to the issue is Zumaya’s injury. Who knows? In all the years of covering baseball, I have never heard of that injury before. It might be a big deal. Then again, it might not be.
One answer might come from dropping a starter into the setup role. Nate Robertson, assuming he gets the zip back into his fastball, might work there. But that would be a huge sacrifice to ask because starters get a lot more money that setup guys - and Robertson is just starting to get to a point in his career where he is starting to make big money. Besides, isn’t Robertson a better starter than both Chad Durbin and Mike Maroth? In the short term, I might try Wilfredo Ledezma in the setup role. He struggles with his command at times, but at least he has decent stuff and tends to step up to challenges.
- How come people are so quick to jump on Craig Monroe? Seems to me like he has been a very good player for the Tigers the last couple seasons. He had a horrible game Thursday, but he has been one of the Tigers best clutch hitters in recent years. He has also averaged 90 RBI the last two seasons. They loved Bobby Higginson for a long time in this town and he topped 90 RBI just two times during his career with the Tigers.
- It was very pleasing that Nicklas Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy again. He is an utterly brilliant hockey player. He is so smooth and subtle, yet effective. If you go to the game and just focus on him, it’s amazing how much he does each shift. Lidstrom covers more than half the ice defensively, he has an incredibly strong stick tying up forwards, nobody is better at making the right decisions bringing the puck out of his own zone and he is the best in the world on the point of the power play. When he skates backward along the blue looking for hole to either shoot or pass the puck, it is classic stuff. Nobody has ever done that better. Outside of Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman, nobody has played better for the Red Wings. With all due respect to Red Kelly, Lidstrom is by far the best defenseman in Red Wings history.
- I am covering the All Star Game in San Francisco and do hope that Barry Bonds is not added to the roster for one reason above all: It would be the Barry Bonds Circus. It would take away from all else about the game. That includes Jim Leyland managing the American League squad, perhaps Justin Verlander starting the game and Magglio Ordonez playing a significant role.
- Curtis Granderson is really playing good baseball. It would not surprise me if he becomes a force for the Tigers like Garret Anderson was for the Angels a few years ago. It’s one of the more underrated stories about the Tigers season thus far.
- The dynamic surrounding the Yankees is weird. When they play poorly early in a season, there is panic in New York. Then when they go on a hot streak and get right back in it, everyone kind of goes, "Ah, you knew that was going to happen - they’re the Yankees." Mike Mussina threw well the other day. That is every bit as important to the Yankees as the addition of Roger Clemens.