Back again: Brewers re-sign reliever Rodriguez

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Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, February 8, 2014

Francisco Rodriguez has become the prodigal son of the Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen.

The veteran reliever signed up for a third stint with the Brewers on Friday when he agreed to a one-year deal with a $3.25 million base salary and another $550,000 available in incentives.

To make room on their 40-man roster for Rodriguez, 32, the Brewers designated reliever Donovan Hand for assignment.

“I was interested in bringing ‘K-Rod’ back,” said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, “and he was interested in coming back. That was one of the things about this. He likes it in Milwaukee. He enjoys playing there. We thought if the price was right, this deal would be a good fit for both sides.”

Rodriguez originally was acquired by the Brewers from the New York Mets at the all-star break in 2011 and he was a big factor in the team winning the National League Central title. Serving as the setup man to closer John Axford, he went 4-0 with a 1.86 earned run average in 31 appearances.

After accepting an arbitration offer to return to Milwaukee in 2012, Rodriguez struggled, both as a setup man and interim closer when Axford faltered. In 78 games, he was 2-7 with a 4.38 ERA and only three saves in 10 opportunities.

The Brewers signed Rodriguez to a free-agent deal last year after the season had begun, and after a brief period in the minors he joined the big-league team in mid-May. He pitched very well, eventually taking over as closer after Axford slipped once again and replacement Jim Henderson was injured. In 25 games, Rodriguez was 1-1 with a 1.09 ERA and 10 saves in 10 chances. He held opponents to a .198 batting average with nine walks and 26 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings.

On July 23, the Brewers traded Rodriguez to Baltimore for highly rated third-base prospect Nick Delmonico. Rodriguez didn’t fare as well with the Orioles, posting a 4.50 ERA in 23 appearances as a setup man. He went back on the free-agent market after the season.

Rodriguez has accumulated 304 saves in 12 seasons with the Angels, Mets, Brewers and Orioles. In 2008, he set a major-league record when he saved 62 games for the Angels. In 134 appearances with the Brewers, he is 7-8 with a 3.15 ERA and 13 saves.

Melvin had been looking for a veteran arm to add to the bullpen, particularly one with closing experience to back up Henderson. The Brewers also had talked about Carlos Marmol, who signed Thursday with Miami.

“He brings experience to the pen,” said Melvin. “He pitched well for us. His strikeouts were up and his walks were down. We asked if he held a grudge against us for trading him last year and (agent) Scott (Boras) said, ‘Absolutely not.’ And he’s been a good influence in our clubhouse.

“I like having another guy who can save games. You don’t have complete games anymore. It helps to have more than one reliever with closing experience.”

Beyond Henderson and Rodriguez, the Brewers have returning setup man Brandon Kintzler (26 holds in 2013) available for late-inning duty. If he recovers from shoulder surgery in time, left-hander Tom Gorzelanny will man another spot, with newly acquired lefty Will Smith also in the relief picture. Others who will vie for bullpen jobs include right-handers Rob Wooten, Michael Blazek and Alfredo Figaro.

Melvin said Henderson, who converted 28 of 32 save chances last season, still is considered the No. 1 closer coming into camp. As for designating Hand for assignment, Melvin said, “Donovan did a good job for us last year but we had so many relievers coming to camp. This might give him a chance with another team (if claimed off waivers). If not, we can still bring him to our camp (as a non-roster player).”

Hand, 27, appeared in 31 games for the Brewers last season, including seven starts. He was 1-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 68 1/3 innings.

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