Mariners notebook: McClendon still has plenty of confidence in Rodney
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – On Tuesday night we saw Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon do something we rarely see him do.
With Fernando Rodney on the hill in the ninth inning, McClendon got two relievers up in the bullpen. Joe Beimel was warming up, ready for anything at that point. For a split second he thought he would not be coming into the game.
“When Rodney got that ground ball I was like, ‘Alright,’ and started walking off the mound,” Beimel said. “And I think everybody was a little shocked when it wasn’t a double play, but those things happen during the course of the year and you’ve just got to be able to bounce back and we did that last night.”
One inning later, Beimel would find himself on the hill with a one-run lead. He’s been asked to hold one-run leads hundreds of times in his career but rarely in or after the ninth inning. This was different.
“When you come in at the end of the game,” he said, shaking his head with a chuckle, “that’s why closers get so much accolades and they make the big money. Because when you are out there it definitely is a different situation. You try to tell yourself it is not, you’ll talk to any player and they will downplay it. I’m here telling you it’s not the same. It’s way different.”
Beimel felt the adrenaline start to flow perhaps a little too much and the game speed up on him to light speed.
“At one point I had thrown three pitches to the second hitter, just kind of going through the motions and letting my adrenaline take over,” he said, “and I stopped and I was like, ‘Holy cow, I just threw three pitches and didn’t even realize I threw three pitches. I better regroup, kind of pay attention to what I am doing.’ From that point, I was fine.”
And fortunate as no damage was done. Beimel was able to get the final out on a three-pitch strikeout. It was his fifth big-league save and a big deal for Beimel, who told the media following the game that there was no chance he was sleeping after that. Beimel stressed in his pregame interview that it takes a lot more than pitches to be a closer. McClendon agrees. There are plenty of relievers with closer stuff. Having the closer mentality is a different thing.
“People think the ninth inning anyone can go out there and do it,” McClendon said. “The last three outs of the game are very tough to get. That was evident yesterday. It was tough for us and they brought their closer in and he hadn’t given up anything and they lost the game. It’s tough.”
The toughest point is the bounce-back, according to McClendon. Rodney has the ability to move on after a hit, a walk, a shaky inning or a blown save. It is a tough thing to give up a win you have been entrusted with by your manager and teammates.
“You appreciate that. He’s tough in that respect,” said McClendon, who noted that it’s also not easy to find. “That’s the one thing about closers: When people say anybody can close, maybe, but can anybody blow a game and come back the next day and have that mentality to close again? That’s the key and that’s the tough part.
“You find out who can close after they blow one and come back the next day.”
McClendon is not anxious to find out any time soon who on his staff could do that. He endures the Rodney roller-coaster with everyone else but it’s the end results and the stuff he sees from his closer that he focuses on more than anything.
The makeup of the rest of his bullpen is also on his mind. Removing a closer – which he says he has no problem doing for a day if he sees his closer doesn’t have his stuff in an outing – is a move that is about much more than just one player.
“That’s the biggest thing. Just take the closer and put somebody in there? Well, who’s the somebody? And when they blow one, then what do you do?” McClendon asked.
“The second thing is, you start playing games with your bullpen and not showing confidence with your players, that’s not very good.”
Rodney lost the lead but not the ballgame and Beimel had the opportunity to get the save.
“I put him out there and I remember telling (bench coach Trent Jewett), ‘He’s a veteran.’ You have to trust him. Trust what he does … and we really didn’t have many options,” McClendon said with a laugh.
It turns out he had enough and the Mariners got the win.
Cruz’s stolen-base attempt
I talked to Nelson Cruz about his stolen base attempt Tuesday night and he told me that was all him.
“I read the report, watched him, and thought I had it,” Cruz said.
Cruz, believe it or not, stole 20 bases in 2009.
“I could have had 30,” he answered with a big smile when I asked about it, “but I hurt my ankle and hamstring that year.”
I loved the effort last night. Cruz was doing whatever he thought he could to help the Mariners win the game. He is that kind of competitor.
That said, it was not a good time to try to force the issue on the bases and ultimately a good thing he was thrown out. Had he made it to second, there was a decent chance Kyle Seager would have been intentionally walked. That would not have been good.
But all’s well that ends well and Seager hit the home run that gave the Mariners the win. Good to know that Cruz has a stolen base or two in his back pocket.
• McClendon says the bullpen is not a concern today. A move to bring in another reliever is close, although he said we probably would not see it Thursday or the Friday.