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Brewers’ reliever OK with set-up role

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Associated Press
February 28, 2012
— When Francisco Rodriguez cleaned out his locker after the St. Louis Cardinals eliminated Milwaukee in last season’s National League Championship Series, the prevailing thought was he would not be back.

Rodriguez, after all, began the season as the closer for New York Mets. He went 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 23 saves before the Brewers acquired him on July 21 for cash and two minor-league pitchers.


With John Axford on his way for a franchise-record 46 saves, Rodriguez became the eighth-inning specialist.


Rodriguez went 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA in 31 games, and the Brewers never lost a regular-season game that they led after seven innings after he arrived. In five postseason appearances, he went 0-0 with a 1.80 ERA.


Rodriguez, who has the fourth-most saves (291) by any active pitcher, became a free agent in the offseason—a closer back on the market. Nothing came his way.


“We tried, I tried, a definite try,” Rodriguez said about searching for a team. “I had a couple of options.”


The Brewers offered Rodriguez arbitration on Nov. 23 and he accepted two weeks later. The two sides agreed to an $8 million, one-year deal on Jan. 17, avoiding arbitration.


“A lot of people were shocked and surprised, but for me, not,” Rodriguez said. “I had really great spirits last year. It was something that I was looking for. So, my decision was a lot easier when I had to make it to be back here in Milwaukee.”


The 30-year-old right-hander, who had an $11.5 million salary last year, can make $625,000 in performance bonuses based on games finished: $125,000 each for 15, 20 and 25, and $250,000 for 30.


“Trust me. If I did not feel comfortable at all last year, or did not feel, or any of my family did not like the city, trust me, the way they made me feel made my decision a lot easier,” he said. “I’m really honored and happy to be here.”


Axford is glad, too, that Rodriguez is back with Milwaukee.


“Frankie brings a lot of energy to this team,” Axford said. “He brings a lot of energy when he’s out on the field. Having him out there is a huge boost and huge pick-me-up for me. Seeing how hard he’s going after it, the way he attacks hitters, how intense he is, when I see that, it gets me going.”


Rodriguez, who was the last pitcher to report due to personal reasons in Venezuela, is ready to go.


“So, this year, the mentality, the preparation is going to come as set up,” he said. “Hopefully, in the future, I’ll get the opportunity to close again.”



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