April 3rd, 2009

Rodney won't get comfy at closer

If Fernando Rodney has won the closer competition for the Tigers, somebody forgot to tell him.

“That’s news,” he said Thursday morning.

Considering his locker at Joker Marchant Stadium sat just outside manager Jim Leyland’s office before they packed up and left for Atlanta Thursday, it’s unlikely he just wasn’t paying attention.

Though Leyland said Wednesday that Rodney would pitch the ninth inning if the Tigers have a lead in the ninth inning on Opening Day, he appears to be simply getting the first shot. At this point, nobody has been declared the closer.

As far as Rodney knows, the closer competition might still be going on, and he can’t let up.

“We have a lot of competition here for that position,” he said. “I don’t know who’s going to be the closer. We have a lot of guys who can close the game. I think that competition is very close.”

Rodney has had no fewer than four different stints as the Tigers’ closer over his six-year Major League career. He saved three of the Tigers’ 43 victories in 2003, and has worked behind such Tigers closers as Franklyn German, Troy Percival, Kyle Farnsworth and Todd Jones.

When the team announced the Brandon Lyon signing at TigerFest in January, adding someone who saved a career-high 26 games last year, Rodney said he looked forward to competing for the closer job. Never mind that the competition appeared to be a formality at that point.

He didn’t accept defeat when the contest seemed stacked against him. Now he isn’t basking in victory, either.

“I keep competing and keep working hard,” Rodney said, “because you don’t ever know what’ll happen.”