Could Rodriguez return to Orioles?

Could Rodriguez return to Orioles?
January 10, 2014, 9:15 am
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Hall of Fame voter Mark Zuckerman on the 2014 class

Only one active player has more saves than Francisco Rodriguez. No one has saved more games in season. Yet, Rodriguez doesn’t have a team for 2014.

When the Orioles acquired K-Rod from Milwaukee last July, some fans thought the team was putting the struggling Jim Johnson on notice. Far from it.

Rodriguez, who has 304 lifetime saves, never even had an opportunity to gain his 305th. Manager Buck Showalter even criticized his ability to hold runners on base.

It’s unusual for Showalter to publicly talk about his players’ shortcomings. Holding runners on base has never been a closers’ prerequisite. It’s more about making sure runners don’t get on base.

But, K-Rod was never an Orioles closer.

In his first four appearances, Rodriguez allowed four home runs, but then allowed four runs in his 16 innings—and one home run. He finished the season by giving up three runs in two innings.

His 1.364 WHIP was the second highest of his career, but did strike out 28 batters in 22 innings.

He pitched twice in the ninth inning, both times in lopsided games, and lost his final game in the 10th.

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Rodriguez was always the last player to arrive in the clubhouse and one of the first to leave, usually sitting quietly by himself during the time reporters were allowed in.

When the season ended, there seemed to be no chance that he’d return. In 25 games with the Brewers, Rodriguez had a sparkling 1.09 ERA and 10 games.

Surely there’d be some demand for him. But, in this most curious of free agent markets, not only does this record setting reliever have few, if any suitors, but Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney remain unsigned.

It was three weeks ago when Balfour’s deal with the Orioles unraveled, leaving lots of angry feelings. During the winter meetings, there was lots of talk about how Balfour had a two-year deal with incentives from one team, and perhaps a three-year deal with another.

Eager to replace Johnson, the Orioles made the deal, but after his medical records revealed a problem, it came apart. Is it possible that there never were any other serious suitors? And how about Rodney, who saved 75 games for Tampa Bay the last two years?

Spring training begins in just over a month, and while there’s a glut of starters still available, there are only a few recognizable closers on the market.

K-Rod didn’t respond to an email asking about his future plans.

The starting pitcher market is supposedly being held hostage by the bidding for Masahiro Tanaka, but the Orioles aren’t involved in that.

This has been a strangely quiet week on the free agent front, and it seems likely that there’ll be a spate of signings soon.

Will Rodriguez be one of them?