Rodney rejoins Tigers bullpen
Reliever avoids surgery with shoulder-strengthening work
SAN FRANCISCO -- Fernando Rodney had a rough return to the Major League mound in a rough situation Monday night. However, he didn't need long to make a positive presence in the Tigers clubhouse.
Rodney, officially activated from the disabled list on Monday after battling shoulder tendinitis since Spring Training, went from player to player to coach, giving hellos and hugs. He joked around with Miguel Cabrera, sat around and told stories with fellow pitchers Denny Bautista and Armando Galarraga and generally bounced around the clubhouse. And that was before he got out to the bullpen.
"He has his own personality out there," fellow reliever Bobby Seay said. "He's a character."
From a personality standpoint, it was as if Rodney hadn't been gone. It's easy to forget from a pitching standpoint that he was sitting in Dr. James Andrews' office about six weeks earlier for an exam that could've led to another surgery.
He had shoulder soreness at that point that wouldn't go away, no matter what he tried. His progress since then has become a sudden picture of consistency for someone who has battled injuries for the better part of a year and a half.
Amazingly, Rodney insists he wasn't thinking about the worst-case scenario as he dealt with one setback after another, then dealt with a doctor's visit. Instead of surgery, he ended up more workouts.
"You know what I think? When I was scheduled to see the doctor, I said I don't feel bad in my arm," Rodney said. "I don't feel like they say you do if you have to get [surgery]. If you have to get it, you get it, but when I saw the doctor, he asked me if I had pain here, and I said no.
"He gave me a lot of exercises to do that helped me a lot. They keep my shoulder strong. Stretching, not too much weight, two or three days a week, every time I throw. After I throw, I run and do my exercises."
That made the difference from a health standpoint. A bullpen session last week with pitching coach Chuck Hernandez put the final touches on the pitches.
"I knew I was doing something wrong, and I didn't know how to get back to that point," Rodney said. "We worked on that, and Friday I threw a couple innings, and that [felt] right. That's what it was. ... I was opening up a little bit. That's why I was inconsistent with my fastball for strike one. [Chuck] helped me a lot."
Manager Jim Leyland said before the game that he'd like to ease in Rodney for an outing in a lower-pressure situation before throwing him into the eighth-inning setup role. That hope vanished when the Giants rallied off of Freddy Dolsi in the eighth, prompting Leyland to turn to Rodney and try for a strikeout of John Bowker and preserve a one-run lead. Instead, Bowker pounced on a two-strike changeup for a three-run homer.
Long-term, however, a healthy Rodney and Joel Zumaya mean plenty for this staff.
"When [Rodney's] healthy, he bolsters the 'pen. I don't want to say [it makes things] easier, but it simplifies [roles]," Seay said. "Last year we had to battle injuries to Fernando and the injury to Joel, so it's been a while since we've had both of them healthy."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.