In theory, Francisco Rodriguez should be in line for a lighter workload now that he’s Milwaukee’s closer. Two days in, though, it certainly hasn’t worked that way.
Working for the fourth straight day, Rodriguez walked three and threw 35 pitches on his way to getting a save against the Cardinals in the Brewers’ 4-3 win Wednesday.
Rodriguez threw 12 pitches Sunday, 17 Monday and 19 Tuesday before getting the ball in the ninth in a 4-2 game today. He struggled with his control and issued three walks on 3-2 counts, but he was able to get Lance Berkman to line out to left field to end it.
Overall, Rodriguez has thrown 43 2/3 innings, which doesn’t seem excessive by itself. He’s on pace to throw 77 2/3 innings for the season, which would be his high mark since 2004, but only the third highest of his career.
K-Rod, though, has been forced to step it up lately. He’s worked four days in a row twice this month. For the season, he’s made 20 appearances on zero days’ rest, leading major league relievers. Detroit’s Jose Valverde is second with 18, followed by five guys with 16.
Fortunately, the Brewers have Thursday off, so they won’t have to worry about the ninth inning tomorrow. I think they should probably give K-Rod an extra day off on Friday after 83 pitches in four days, but that could lead to a difficult choice in the ninth. Making his first appearance since K-Rod replaced him in the closer’s role, John Axford got the win in relief today after getting four outs in the fifth and sixth innings. The Brewers probably wouldn’t want to go back to him in the ninth right away this weekend, but they also don’t want to burn K-Rod out.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉