Miami Marlins

Veteran reliever Fernando Rodney welcomes setup role

Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Fernando Rodney will pitch the 8th most of time and close when closer A.J. Ramos not available.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Fernando Rodney will pitch the 8th most of time and close when closer A.J. Ramos not available. AP

The closer’s job won’t be his with the Marlins. His beard and mustache have to go. But Fernando Rodney can keep his cap turned cockeyed and fire off his imaginary arrows.

The 39-year-old reliever received his welcome papers on Friday, joining the Marlins one day after they acquired him in a trade with the San Diego Padres.

“I like to play baseball and have fun,” Rodney said. “I don’t worry nothing about shaving. Have fun with my teammates. Enjoy the moment. Play good. Play hard. That’s it.”

Despite his 253 career saves, which ranks fifth among active pitchers, Rodney will be used in an eighth-inning set-up role for A.J. Ramos, the Marlins’ incumbent closer. Ramos has converted all 24 save chances this season. Manager Don Mattingly told Rodney he would close when Ramos was unavailable.

“Obviously, with A.J., with what he’s been able to do — he’s been perfect — it would be hard for me to take that out of our mix,” Mattingly said.

Rodney, who had 17 saves this season for the Padres, said he’s fine with his new role and the fact that team rules won’t allow him to keep his lengthy beard and mustache.

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“I respect the rule they have here,” Rodney said. “Have fun, shave it.”

He’ll keep his cap turned sideways, though. Rodney wears it that way as a tribute to his father, who wore his hat crooked in the Dominican Republic to block the sun while fishing.

And he indicated he’ll continue to fire imaginary arrows, which was his custom when closing out wins. When Rodney saves a win for the Marlins, he said he’ll continue the tradition.

“The arrow, I’m going to save the arrow right now,” Rodney said of keeping it under wraps in his new setup role. “But if you have a chance, you’re going to see [it].”

With a smile on his face, Rodney said he would also refuse — if asked — to sign the ball he threw to Ichiro Suzuki for his 4,257th hit, which moved him past Pete Rose on the combined hit list between the majors and Japan.

“I’m not going to sign the ball,” Rodney said, drawing laughter. “He’s a good guy. Good teammate.”

From the standpoint of bullpen usage, the inclusion of Rodney changes how everyone else will line up. David Phelps, who has been used in the eighth, will now work the seventh.

And the additional late-inning arm will enable Mattingly to rest Phelps and Kyle Barraclough more often.

“It benefits everyone,” Mattingly explained. “It gives us four guys in the back end. We feel like you should have a couple guys available every day if we’re putting ourselves in winning situations every day.”

Pitching for a new team is nothing new for Rodney. The Marlins will be his seventh team since 2009. As a result, it didn’t come as any great shock to Rodney when he sensed he was about to be traded.

“[Thursday], I had a dream,” Rodney said. “I called my agent and said, ‘I feel something. What’s going on?’ He said something about a trade. He said you have to pack your stuff. You got traded to the Marlins.”

DUNN ISN’T DONE

Mattingly said it’s far too soon to give up on Mike Dunn, who has struggled mightily since coming off the disabled list in early June.

After taking over for Wei-Yin Chen in the sixth inning on Thursday night, Dunn failed to protect the lead in an eventual 8-5 loss to the Braves. Dunn has a loss and two blown saves in 12 appearances. His ERA now sits at 5.40.

“Your past track record tells you he’s going to have success,” Mattingly said, defending his only left-handed reliever.

Mattingly said Dunn’s issues are likely the result of his being rushed back too quickly from the disabled list. Dunn pitched in only three minor-league rehab outings before coming off the DL.

“I think we’re probably at fault here a little,” Mattingly said. “But we’re going to give him a chance and keep working and keep getting himself back together and count on him being a guy for us that is a huge part of our bullpen before the year’s over.”

▪ The Marlins’ major-league record of 28 consecutive games without an infield error ended in Thursday’s eighth inning when a ground ball went through the glove of third baseman Martin Prado.

“That streak was going to end at some point,” Mattingly said.

“Martin’s made so many great plays that you hate to see it be him. You hate to see it be anybody. But, at some point, you’re going to make an error, and the fact we’re talking about it tells you how good these guys have been playing.”

▪ To make room for Rodney and Justin Nicolino, who was recalled from Triple A New Orleans to make Friday night’s start, the Marlins designated Jo-Jo Reyes for assignment and optioned reliever Brian Ellington to New Orleans.

COMING UP

▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (10-3, 2.28 ERA) at Atlanta Braves (to be announced), 4:10 p.m., Turner Field.

▪ Sunday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (4-5, 3.90) at Braves RHP Matt Wisler (3-7, 4.14), 8:10 p.m., Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

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