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Rodriguez adds a 1-2 closing punch

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Associated Press
July 14, 2011
— With their trade for Francisco Rodriguez, the Milwaukee Brewers now can call on a pair of potential closers. And in a tense ninth-inning situation, it sounds as if either Rodriguez or John Axford could get in the game.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said both Rodriguez and Axford, the team’s current closer, will get chances to finish games as Milwaukee makes a push for the playoffs.


“We’re not going to get involved with the roles at this time,” Melvin said Wednesday. “When you’re a championship club, you need to have everybody pulling together.”


Melvin said he talked to both Rodriguez and Axford in the wake of the trade with the New York Mets, which came together quickly Tuesday and was announced almost immediately after the All-Star game. The Mets sent Rodriguez and cash to Milwaukee for two players to be named.


Melvin told Axford, who has a 2.83 ERA and 23 saves this season, to “not get nervous” about the addition.


Melvin said he’s confident both Rodriguez and Axford will be willing to adjust to less-defined roles, whether they’re setting up, closing or sitting in the bullpen on any given night.


“There’s three or four games every night that are lost in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings,” Melvin said. “And if you look at most of these ballclubs that win, and consider themselves teams that are going to be headed to championships or playoffs, they all have identifiable or recognizable guys pitching the eighth and the ninth innings.”


Of course, giving the ball to Rodriguez every night could be costly.


Melvin said the Brewers were aware of a clause in Rodriguez’s contract that guarantees him $17.5 million in 2012 if he finishes 55 games this year. The right-hander has finished 34 and is on pace to achieve the mark.


“I think that’s what scared a lot of teams off,” Melvin said. “But the opportunity arose, we had the chance to get someone the caliber of K-Rod.”


It’s unlikely that the Brewers could afford that salary next season, but the contract clause could become a moot point if Rodriguez and Axford share closer duties.


“In a pennant race, there’s a chance you could go out and have six straight one-run ballgames,” Melvin said. “There’s no way that any one guy can close six games in a row.”


The trade for Rodriguez, is another indication that the Brewers are built to make a playoff run this year. They added starters Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the offseason, and Prince Fielder may leave as a free agent after this season. Milwaukee is tied with St. Louis for the NL Central lead.


But Melvin believes the Brewers’ window to win lasts more than one year, saying he hopes they’re “all in” next year, too.


The 29-year-old Rodriguez is 2-2 with a 3.16 ERA and 23 saves. He set the single-season saves record with 62 in 2008 with the Angels.


Melvin said Rodriguez’s velocity isn’t where it was a few years ago, but he’s still an effective pitcher who gets strikeouts and ground balls.


Melvin was walking to Starbucks in Chicago on Tuesday morning when he got a call from Mets general manager Sandy Alderson proposing the trade.


, said he would have regretted walking away from the chance to acquire Rodriguez if the Brewers end up having more injuries in their bullpen.


And Melvin didn’t want to wait for the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline to get closer.


“If you wait, there’s no guarantees you’ll get somebody,” Melvin said. “And sometimes when you wait longer, it’s reactionary. You make a deal because other clubs made a deal.”


That said, Melvin might not be done dealing.


“We’re still open to adding someone,” Melvin said.



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