FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Told that Ichiro Suzuki wants to play until he’s 50, Fernando Rodney smiled.
“He can. He feels good. He feels ready to go,” the Minnesota Twins closer said. “I think he loves the game. When you love something, you can say that.”
“I love the game, too. But 50 is a lot,” he said.
Rodney turns 41 on Sunday and is now with his ninth team. He enters his 16th season as baseball’s active leader with 300 saves.
A three-time All-Star, he appeared in 61 games for Arizona last season, posting a 4.23 ERA with 39 saves and a 5-4 record.
Rodney held batters hitless in 29 June at-bats, the fourth pitcher all-time to face 28 or more hitters in a month and not allow a hit.
With Seattle in 2014, he led the majors in saves and tied a career high with 48.
Known for punctuating his saves with a trademark arrow shot, Rodney has specific goals for the season.
“Well, my first is games saved — 40, 45,” he said. “And we try to go to the playoffs and try to win the World Series. That’s not easy and I’m not saying we’ll go for sure. But, we got a good team and that’s my goal right now.”
Rodney is more than twice as old as 22-year-old left-hander Lewis Thorpe, the youngest player on the Twins’ 40-man roster. Probable opening day starter Jose Berrios is 23.
It’s not only what Rodney can do on the field that persuaded the Twins to sign him, a season after they earned an AL wild-card spot.
“Obviously, what he’s been doing the last few years in his career has been racking up saves,” said Twins bullpen coach and former closer Eddie Guardado.
“Not only that, his leadership. I heard a lot of good things about him. I only watched him before across all these years. I hope he does bring leadership to us because we have a young team and always need leadership, good leadership. And from knowing him from day one to right now, great, just absolutely fantastic,” he said.
“So, I think he’s a great addition to us, not only because he’s going to go out there and do his job, which is a great plus for us, but I think in the clubhouse he’s going to do some good things. I’m excited,” he said.
Rodney knows what’s expected of him.
“I’ve been in this game a long time,” he said. “I know what I have to bring to the field, to the new team, new guys. I bring my energy, that’s what they’re looking for. I bring a smile to my teammates. I make sure they feel good.”