By Justin Toscano
As of Friday, the Arizona Diamondbacks sit just one-half game out of first-place in the National League West. However, it hasn’t all been positive.
A good closer is a necessity for teams fighting to make the postseason down the stretch, and red flags have already popped up for the D-backs at that position. The club signed closer Fernando Rodney this past offseason, but he didn’t fare well in April.
The 40-year-old closer blew back-to-back chances last week, both while the D-backs were vying for first place with the Rockies. Rodney (1-2) allowed a five-run ninth to the Padres and let in two runs to the Rockies and both resulted in losses.
“There’s a reason that there’s not that many 40-year old closers,” said ESPN baseball reporter Pedro Gomez in an interview with Sports360AZ’s Brad Cesmat on Wednesday. “Mariano Rivera comes to mind, but that’s kind of the exception. It’s a hard position.”
Rodney’s lengthy career started in 2002 with the Detroit Tigers. Since then, he has played for the Angels, Rays, Mariners, Cubs, Padres and Marlins. He has 268 career saves, but Gomez said he may not be the same closer he was in years past.
“Mentally, he can absolutely handle the grind, but he’s no longer the 33-year-old flamethrower that had pinpoint control that he once was back in Detroit and places like that,” Gomez said.
Gomez said Rodney is the club’s best option at closer right now, but he expects the team to address the position if it’s still in the race come July and Rodney continues to be up and down.
Regardless of the concern surrounding Rodney, the D-backs have been a pleasant surprise.
Since entering the majors in 2014, third baseman Jake Lamb has played more and more each year. His production has also risen. Last season, he hit 29 home runs and had 91 RBI in 151 games.
He is off to a hot start this year, fully taking advantage of his opportunity to play every day.
“You need guys that weren’t expected to maybe have huge years to have bright years,” Gomez said. “That’s the only way you continue to be relevant for the six months of the season. You need guys to do more than they’ve ever done before.”
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) May 6, 2017
When discussing the D-backs’ hot start and whether it can be sustained, Gomez drew parallels to the Houston Astros losing 100 or more games in three straight seasons (2011-2013). In 2014, they lost 92 games.
But the next season, the Astros made the Wild Card game and defeated the Yankees in New York to advance to the second round. Turnarounds can happen, Gomez said.
“These are building blocks and the only way you get to September is to build from the start,” he said.