By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – Fernando Rodney made his spring training debut Thursday and afterward had a rather entertaining meeting with the media in which he explained why he wears his hat crooked.
He believes that with the brim tilted more toward first base it gives the appearance to the runner that he is looking over at him. Rodney also believes that it keeps the hitters from looking at his eyes.
Fernando Rodney says there’s a tactical benefit to wearing his cap askew. (AP)
It’s about deception, or so he says – when asked if his closer might have been leading the media down a path with that story, manager Lloyd McClendon chuckled and said it was a possibility – with the runner at first perhaps less likely to go as he thinks he is being watched and the hitter not able to gauge what might be coming as he is not able to look into his eyes.
Rodney may or may not believe his story, but one topic he was certainly serious about was his readiness for this season and why he believed we could see a better performance from him this year than what he showed with Tampa Bay last season.
“Last year I threw a lot,” he said. “I throw in the Dominican, throw in the Caribbean Series, I throw in the WBC and I throw in spring training. I felt a little bit tired early in the season. I recover and come back.
“This year is going to be different because I am more fresh now. I feel strong.”
It was a heavy early workload with Rodney pitching in the Dominican League and then appearing in all eight games of the WBC, where he picked up seven saves on the way to the Dominican Republic’s championship. That workload may or may not have been at least partially responsible for his falloff in numbers between 2012 and 2013. The important thing now is that he feels strong and has his hat firmly tilted on his head.
Abraham Almonte, 8
Kyle Seager, 5
Nick Franklin, 6
Justin Smoak, 3
Corey Hart, 9
Logan Morrison, DH
Dustin Ackley, 7
Mike Zunino, 2
Carlos Triunfel, 4
Of note: We get our first look at Corey Hart in the outfield. It will be a short one, however, as McClendon said he just wants to use this game to get his feet wet. He expects to keep Hart in the field no more than four or five innings.
It’s also notable that Kyle Seager has played in all three games since missing time with a jammed finger.
Turnabout is fair play?
The Mariners have swiped 13 bases this spring, which is good for second-best in the Cactus League. They have been caught just once. On the flipside, the Mariners’ catchers have just one caught stealing this spring and have allowed nine stolen bases. That number could go up Friday with Billy Hamilton leading off for the Reds.
• Friday’s game against the Reds can be heard live on 710 ESPN Seattle and 710Sports.com at 12:05.
• You may notice that second baseman Robinson Cano is missing from the lineup for the second straight day. Turns out he had a root canal Wednesday afternoon and hasn’t been feeling too good since. Understandable.
• For those of you keeping track at home, Abraham Almonte makes his fifth start Friday in center field. Endy Chavez has made three starts and James Jones has made one.