Should Tampa Bay Rays Ditch Fernando Rodney As Closer?

By Hunter Farman
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s be honest here, nobody expected Fernando Rodney to repeat the successes that he had during the 2012 season.

But on the same note, nobody really expected him to struggle as much as he has so far in 2013. It has become clear that Rodney is little more than your average relief pitcher, and the Tampa Bay Rays might actually be better off jettisoning him from the role of closer.

After being an average pitcher for the majority of his career, Rodney was able to break out in 2012, saving 48 games for the Rays while accumulating an unbelievable ERA of 0.60. Even more unreal is the fact that he only gave up five runs the entire season. He struck out 76 batters and walked just 15. It’s safe to say that Rodney last year was as unhittable as they come. People thought that perhaps he was cementing himself as one of the top closers in baseball.

Fast forward a year, and things are a lot different.

Rodney has four blown saves in a little over two months of play so far. He had two all of 2012. His ERA has skyrocketed to an unimpressive 5.4o, and it continues to climb. What’s frightening is that Rodney’s walk numbers this season are getting closer to his strikeout totals with each passing game. Currently, it is a differential of about seven.

Would somebody be wrong if they said that Rodney is no longer giving the Rays a real chance to win in the ninth inning?

But if the Rays were to force Rodney out of the role, who would take his place? Well, there’s only one player that stands out above everybody — Joel Peralta.

While his 0-2 record is rather disheartening, Peralta has arguably been the best relief pitcher for the Rays this season. He has an ERA of 2.08 with 23 strikeouts and eight walks. He is currently serving as Rodney’s setup man, so he is familiar with some of the pressures that come from pitching late in games.

Opponents are also batting just .182 against him, with righties faring a little bit better than lefties.

In a year where the Tampa bullpen isn’t that great, Peralta is really the sole bright spot. Therefore, with Rodney struggling, perhaps the Rays should seriously consider giving Peralta a shot at closer. After all, he will probably give them the best chance to win the game, and that’s what the closer’s role is all about, right?


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