Reporting from Toronto -- There is something about pitching with the game on the line that brings out the best in Fernando Rodney. And there is something about pitching in low-impact situations that brings out the worst in the Angels reliever.
Over the last two seasons, Rodney has a 2.59 earned-run average in save situations, giving up 12 earned runs in 41 2/3 innings. In non-save situations, the hard-throwing right-hander has a 6.69 ERA, giving up 29 earned runs in 39 innings.
“I think I’m a different pitcher in save situations,” said Rodney, the former Detroit Tigers closer who signed a two-year, $11-million deal with the Angels over the winter.
“I’m more excited. I get focused to save the game, and it’s the same when I’m pitching the eighth inning [of a close game]. I don’t know why this happens … but something changes in me when I get the ball in the ninth inning. My pitches are better.”
Rodney, filling in for injured closer Brian Fuentes, needed nine pitches to retire the side in order and record saves against the Yankees on Wednesday and the Blue Jays on Friday. He needed 10 pitches to strike out two of the three batters he retired to save Saturday’s 6-3 win over Toronto.
Rodney also threw hitless innings in wins over Minnesota on April 5 and Oakland on April 10. But when summoned in a 10-1 loss to the Twins on April 8, Rodney gave up four runs and three hits, including a three-run homer to Delmon Young.
“When the game is on the line, there’s a focus that brings some guys into their game,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Sometimes when you’re out there just for work, guys respond differently.
“Does Rodney need that close game to pitch? I don’t know. But I know it was that way with [former closers] Francisco [Rodriguez] and [ Troy Percival], so there might be some validity to that.”
Fuentes, on the disabled list because of a muscle strain in his back, is scheduled to throw a rehabilitation inning for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Monday and be activated Wednesday.
Scioscia said the left-hander, who struggled at the end of 2009, will retain his closing job. Rodney understands.
“I know he’s the closer,” Rodney said of Fuentes. “It’s Mike’s decision. Whatever he wants to do, he can do.”
Mike Napoli is known more for his power than his defense, but the catcher saved a run with a fine play in the eighth inning Saturday.
Alex Gonzalez doubled with two out, and Adam Lind singled to right. Gonzalez beat Reggie Willits’ throw home, but as he slid and attempted to swipe the plate with his left hand, Napoli blocked the plate with his left foot.
Gonzalez hit Napoli’s foot and slid past the plate. Napoli applied the tag, and umpire Marvin Hudson called Gonzalez out, with replays supporting the call.
“The umpire made a good call,” Toronto Manager Cito Gaston said, after viewing replays. “Gonzalez missed the plate.”
Right fielder Bobby Abreu was not in Saturday’s lineup, but Scioscia said it was not because of health reasons. “We just want to give him a little break from the [artificial] turf,” Scioscia said. “He’s been playing a lot.” … Former Cal State Fullerton left-hander Ricky Romero, who will start Sunday for Toronto, took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against Texas in his first start of the season and struck out 12 against the Chicago White Sox in his second start.