Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey “wouldn’t be surprised” if Fernando Rodney returns

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The Rays addressed their need for a closer by acquiring Heath Bell in a three-team trade at the beginning of December. Fernando Rodney, who had been their closer for the past two seasons, became a free agent at the conclusion of the 2013 regular season, but the right-hander has yet to sign with a new team. As a result, pitching coach Jim Hickey says he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Rodney ends up returning to the Rays, according to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.

GM Andrew Friedman also said he would “see if anything makes sense” in terms of adding additional relievers. If the Rays were to sign Rodney, he would likely remain as the closer, pushing Bell into a set-up role. Bell had good defense-independent numbers last season but gave up way too many home runs (12 in 65.2 innings) and allows an unusually high rate of hits on batted balls for a back-end reliever. Meanwhile, Rodney had an historically great season in 2012 (0.60 ERA) and still had one of the better seasons of his career last year (3.38 ERA).

Michael Pineda throws off mound for first time since Tommy John surgery

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According to MLB.com associate reporter Jarrid Denney, right-hander Michael Pineda threw off a mound Wednesday morning at Target Field for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Pineda was signed to a two-year, $10 million free agent contract this winter by the Twins, who are probably more focused on what he might be able to do in 2019 rather than 2018.

He had the reconstructive elbow surgery last July 18, so he won’t be an option for the Minnesota rotation until probably late August or September of this year. Still, that deal seems like a nice gamble given the price point and the possibility that he will regain his form as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter. That he’s making steady progress in his rehab makes the situation all the more encouraging.

Pineda, 29, holds a 4.05 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 687 strikeouts in 680 career major league innings.