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As season draws closer, Revs re-sign their closer

Came up with that headline all by myself.  It’s already been a big week around here with Corey Thurman’s return announced on Monday.  Well, add another big name to the list, as a guy who has closed out many a Thurm victory over the last two years will own 9th innings again this season… closer R.J. Rodriguez is the latest champion to return to York for another season.

This franchise has had some great relief pitchers in its short time and R.J. would be near the top of that list. In fact he’ll enter this season tied for second in club history in saves with 18, needing just five to match Franklin Nunez’ club record, six to take over the top spot all-time.  He has almost always gotten the job done, nailing down 18 of his 21 opportunities all-time in a York uniform, with a few more in the postseason.

There was really only one bad one that got away last season, early in the year when pitch selection was called into question in a loss to Long Island.  He’s best when he keeps the ball down and relies on his sinker, and he got right back to doing that and enjoyed a dominant stretch shortly thereafter as a seventh inning guy.  But late in the season after returning from Mexico, R.J. found himself back in the 9th inning and racked up the saves again.  Last year’s team had some interchangeable parts with regards to late-inning arms, and Rodriguez handled which ever role he was handed very well (never complained about his role either).

The biggest thing I love about him is he is absolutely fearless.  With the game on the line, he wants the ball, and he’s going right at you.  He’s not the biggest guy, and scouts may overlook him a bit because of that, but he generates an awful lot of velocity from a smaller frame, and I certainly don’t think hitters particularly enjoy facing him.  And when he keeps that sinking fastball down, it has some vicious late life to it, coupled with a really good changeup.  He’s got the power arm and the bulldog mentality, and with that he’s got a pretty good makeup to be the end-of-game guy.

But everyone around here knows that, we’ve seen him do it for two seasons.  He’s been a huge part of all of the success, and has gotten the team through some of the more tense innings they’ve faced, postseason or otherwise.

For all of the facts, here is today’s press release on R.J.’s signing:

The two-time defending Atlantic League champion York Revolution have re-signed closer R.J. Rodriguez for the 2012 season, it was announced today by manager Andy Etchebarren.  Rodriguez is the 15th player signed for the upcoming campaign, and the ninth returning member of last year’s championship club.

Rodriguez will enter his third season with York in 2012 and is tied for second in Revs history in career saves with 18 over the last two years.  The Miami native first joined the Revs in May, 2010 and made an immediate impact helping to transform the bullpen into one of the league’s top units.  Rodriguez eventually took over the closer role that season and saved eight games, earned a pair of wins, and posted an outstanding 2.51 ERA in his first season with the club.  He followed that up with three more wins and 10 saves last season while rolling out another solid ERA at 3.61.

Pitching coach Mark Mason is among the many who are happy to have Rodriguez back for another season.

“He is a proven closer in this league and helps solidify the back end of our bullpen,” said Mason.  “When the game is on the line, he wants the ball and rises to the occasion.”

Rodriguez was lights out more often than not in 2011, and held an ERA as low as 2.89 into early September.  He enjoyed a 13.2-inning scoreless streak in June, the longest by any reliever on last year’s squad.  He was nearly perfect for a lengthy stretch in June, retiring 23 of 24 batters at one point.  Rodriguez was also outstanding late in the season in helping the Revs wrap up another playoff berth, earning five saves in six days from September 8-13.

The right-hander originally signed with San Diego in 2006 spending three years in the Padres organization, and also pitched in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system in 2009, leading the Carolina League in saves with 27 for Lynchburg.  Rodriguez owns 90 saves for his pro career.

Rodriguez spent the off-season pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League for Leones de Ponce for the third consecutive year, leading the league with 11 saves while holding a 2.74 ERA.

-DH

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