Inbox: Rodney reclaims late-inning success

Rays Inbox: Rodney reclaims late-inning success

Inbox: Rodney reclaims late-inning success
What was the Rays' motivation in acquiring Brandon Allen? He looks like a Minor League slugger who has never adjusted to Major League pitching. Why not stick with Stephen Vogt? Vogt can at least catch and eventually his hitting would have come around.
-- Sam D., Clearwater, Fla.

After making the team out of Spring Training, Vogt was sent to Triple-A Durham on Friday to make room for B.J. Upton's return from the disabled list. Reid Brignac was optioned following Friday night's game to make room for Allen. While Vogt can play catcher, I think the Rays are intrigued by Allen's power potential.

Right now, it's hard to see where he will fit in, though. Luke Scott should get as many at-bats as he can handle at designated hitter, Carlos Pena has first base locked down, and the outfield -- with Desmond Jennings, Upton, Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist -- is pretty tough to crack. Looks like power-hitting, pinch-hitting duties for Allen.

I don't like what I've seen of Jose Molina so far. Again, we have a catcher who doesn't block pitches and he doesn't appear to have much of an arm. Finally, as a hitter he doesn't take much of a hack and he doesn't run well. Why do they seem to be so taken with Molina?
-- Ted G., Columbus, Ohio

While I have seen Molina struggle to block a few pitches, I like the way he frames the baseball when it arrives. Many times, the manner in which a catcher catches a ball will spell the difference between a ball and a strike. On another positive note, I heard James Shields raving about what a nice job Molina did calling the game Saturday night. There's a lot of time left in the season, so I'll reserve judgment on Molina until I've seen him play more.

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Bill ChastainE-mail your query to MLB.com Rays beat reporter Bill Chastain for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
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Fernando Rodney looks really good to me so far. Is what we're seeing real or will he regress to the pitcher who made a mess of ninth innings for the Angels? Right now I'm trying not to get too excited, because it's early in the season, but I like what I'm seeing.
-- Ken A., Atlanta

Rodney's career took a downturn after leaving the Tigers to sign with the Angels prior to the 2010 season. After recording a career-high 37 saves and blowing just one opportunity in 2009 with the Tigers, he fell to 14 saves with seven blown saves in his first year with the Angels, before recording three saves and blowing four in 2011. Apparently, Rodney recognized the fact his career was in jeopardy and got to work in the offseason prior to signing with the Rays.

Thus far, he's looked like the real deal, with five saves and zero blown saves. I also noticed that his velocity continues to inch toward the 100 mph plateau he once hit so often. If you're a Tampa Bay fan, you have to be hopeful that the people in the front office have again found a diamond in the rough.

George Hendrick seems to be a really nice guy. He actually gave my daughter a baseball and seemed pleasant while doing so. What's the real story on George? All I've ever heard is that he's quiet and doesn't talk to the media. Normally when you hear stuff like that, the guy is disagreeable or moody. George sure doesn't appear to be that way.
-- Joe M., Tampa, Fla.

Hendrick is the Rays' first-base coach. He is a former Major Leaguer and had quite a career if one examines the backside of his baseball card. While he won't talk to any members of the media on the record, he does so off the record. He is one of the most thoughtful, funny and genuine guys around, and he is beloved by the players. So your assessment is correct, "Cuz" -- as he's called by everybody in Tampa Bay's clubhouse -- is a really nice guy.

While everybody talks about Boston and New York being our primary competition in our division, I'm more worried about Toronto. Your thoughts? Also, what do you think about the prospect of three teams from the American League East going to the playoffs?
-- Melissa W., Clearwater, Fla.

Rays manager Joe Maddon has consistently talked about the dangers of Toronto, so I'd add them to the mix where Tampa Bay's worries are concerned. I'd put them right up there with New York and Boston. As for three teams from the AL East making the playoffs, I don't think you will see that happen as long as there's an unbalanced schedule.

Each of the teams in the AL East plays each other 18 times a season. That equates to a lot of beating up on each other. If a balanced schedule was in place, I think the possibility of having three AL East teams would be far greater.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.