Rodney to represent D.R. in Classic
Rays have no problems if their players want to suit up for native countries
ST. PETERSBURG -- It appears closer Fernando Rodney will be taking his bow-and-arrow routine to the World Baseball Classic, and the Rays' front office won't object to his decision to play for the Dominican Republic.
According to a report in the Dominican newspaper El Caribe on Monday, Rodney is planning to pitch in the World Baseball Classic in March.
"I want to represent the country," Rodney told El Caribe. "It will be a pleasure to be there in the Dominican uniform."
Rodney's decision could affect his preparation for the upcoming season, as the Dominican team's first game is scheduled for March 7, less than a month after Tampa Bay's pitchers and catchers will report to Port Charlotte, Fla., for Spring Training. The championship game is March 19 in San Francisco. That means Rodney would have to accelerate his usual spring schedule, and he could be asked to pitch more -- and pitch in more competitive situations -- than he usually would so early in the year.
According to El Caribe, Rodney didn't ask for the Rays' permission before agreeing to play, saying, "You don't have to ask permission to represent your country."
Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman couldn't comment specifically on Rodney's decision, as the rosters won't be officially unveiled until Thursday, but he expressed no problems with any of his players choosing to participate in the World Baseball Classic.
"Simply said, we're supportive of guys that want to play for their country and go through the experience," Friedman said. "For pitchers, it's obviously less comfortable than it is for position players, but it's one of those things that certainly helps advance the game. There's certain times we have to think beyond the narrow scope of the Tampa Bay Rays."
It's even less of an issue for relievers, as Friedman noted that Rodney would probably only make seven or eight appearances for the Rays in a normal Spring Training. He could still do that if he chooses to play for the Dominican team, although he will have to increase his workload quicker and balance that ramping-up process with pitching in the Classic's more competitive atmosphere.
Before the 2009 Classic, the Rays petitioned to have left-hander Scott Kazmir removed from the roster, concerned about the extra workload and potential risk of injury. But Tampa Bay was well represented in the tournament, allowing left-handed reliever J.P. Howell and infielders Willy Aybar and Akinori Iwamura to play for their respective countries.
"It just depends. If guys are coming off injury, depending on where they are, if we don't feel like they can get built up properly, there's different things go into it," Friedman said. "With a starter, the way we methodically build someone up, it's much more difficult. Not impossible, but difficult. For position players, there's some challenges there, too. Are they getting enough at-bats? For switch-hitters, are they getting enough at-bats from both sides? All the things that go into what we do in a non-WBC year to get guys ready obviously still factor in for us, and we try to do the best we can to make sure that guys are ready.
"But with who Fernando is -- the arm, the resiliency, all that stuff -- [we're] less concerned about him than other guys."
The 35-year-old right-hander is coming off a career year that included a record-low 0.60 ERA for a reliever, 48 saves in 50 chances and 76 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings. Topping Rodney's dominant performance with his crooked cap and post-save celebrations in which he shot imaginary arrows into the air, Rodney quickly became a fan favorite, and the Rays made an easy decision in picking up his $2.5 million option for 2013.
The full 2013 World Baseball Classic rosters will be announced Thursday on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com.