06/04/08 4:57 PM ET
Rodriguez wants to go nine more years
Closer a free agent in offseason, not sure where he'll be
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
That's why he feels so gratified that his new, modified delivery, relieving pressure on various joints and tissues, clearly has been an unqualified success. The proof is in the numbers: a club-record 20 saves in a row during a season, two shy of his record for consecutive saves across multiple seasons.
He's 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA, and he was dominant Tuesday night in striking out the side and shutting down the Mariners to preserve Joe Saunders' American League-leading ninth win. Rodriguez leads the Majors with 23 saves, blowing only one, and has 169 career saves.
"I feel comfortable with it," K-Rod said of the delivery he refined with pitching coach Mike Butcher's assistance during Spring Training. "It was a little rough at the start, but now I don't feel like I'm falling off [the mound] as much as I used to. I'm feeling stronger and stronger, which is good.
"That might have been my best stuff" of the season Tuesday night.
Rodriguez hatched the idea of taking some of the violence out of his delivery over the winter. Early on, as he experienced ankle problems, there were concerns that he was losing too much velocity. The ankle woes have disappeared, and his fastball appears to be exploding again.
"It's a game about transitions," K-Rod said. "Sometimes you have to make adjustments. I got criticized, people saying I was in decline, but I stayed with it. I knew in my mind it was going to work. I'm fortunate to be able to do that, a quick transition. You never know; next year I might have to change again.
"If I want to be playing 10 years, 15 years in the big leagues, I have to do things to help my body stay strong. That's what I'm doing now. My plan is to play nine more years, if possible. I got started young, at 20. Most guys start at 26, 27. At 30, I'll have 10 years in. I can pitch to 35 and get 15 years in. I'm working hard, doing the little things."
Rodriguez is making $10 million this year and is eligible this winter for free agency, where he figures to raise the bar for closers from the three-year, $45 million deal the Yankees handed Mariano Rivera over the winter.
At his age, with a shot at becoming the all-time saves leader, K-Rod understands the position he's in and isn't closing any doors.
"Like everyone else, I'm looking out for my family," he said. "I want my kids to have things I never had" growing up in poverty in Caracas, Venezuela. "I have three kids; I want to take care of them. That's why after this season, no matter whether I go or stay, I have to decide what's best for us as a family. Today I'm here, tomorrow maybe somewhere else."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.