It looked like the end for Francisco Rodriguez last summer when he was released twice in the span of three weeks. Detroit parted with six-time All Star after he flamed out as their closer. Washington let him go when his fastball – no longer reaching 90 mph – proved little challenge for A-ball hitters.
And now Rodriguez, who turned 36 earlier this month, will look to salvage his career with the Phillies. The team invited Rodriguez to spring training on a minor-league contract. The deal, as first reported by Fanrag Sports, can be worth as much as $3.75 million. He will report to Clearwater, Fla. with a chance to make the team.
Rodriguez posted a 7.28 ERA last season in 28 outings with the Tigers as he tried to pitch through groin and hamstring injuries. His change-up was suddenly hittable and Rodriguez' fastball velocity reached the lowest of his career. The righthander blew six of his 13 save chances with the Tigers before bumped from the role in May and released in June. Washington took a chance four days later but let Rodriguez go after five uninspiring minor-league innings.
The Phillies plan to enter the season with an eight-man bullpen. Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek, both of whom signed two-year contracts in December, are locks. Hector Neris, who saved 26 games last season, is expected to be the closer. Adam Morgan, Luis Garcia, and Mark Leiter Jr. pitched well last season and should regain their roles. Rodriguez, if healthy, will be in the mix for one of the final spots.
Rodriguez is fourth on baseball's all-time save list with 437. He saved 44 games for the Tigers in 2016 and had a 2.85 ERA in three seasons before last year's meltdown. His chances with the Phillies will rely on his health and the ability to regain his change-up. He threw the pitch for more than 40-percent of his offerings in 2015 and 2016 and batters struggled against it. The change-up lost its effectiveness last season, likely as a result of his fastball losing zip as he pitched injured. And his season spun out of control.