Rodney looks to repeat historic performance

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Fernando Rodney produced a historic season as the Rays' closer in 2012 when he set a Major League record for a relief pitcher (minimum of 50 innings) with his 0.60 ERA, breaking Dennis Eckersley's record of 0.61 set in 1990.

Along the way, Rodney also set a club record with 48 saves.

There's no doubt the Dominican Republic native has set a high bar for himself as far as repeating his performance this season, and manager Joe Maddon seems to be resigned to that fact.

"It's very difficult to repeat what he did," Maddon said, "and I don't want him to think that way. I want him to just go out there and pitch, and we'll take care of how to rest and utilize him."

Rodney signed with the Rays as a free agent on Jan. 4, 2012, and he was expected to be a member of the bullpen, but not the closer. That job had been earmarked for Kyle Farnsworth, who converted 25 of 31 save opportunities in 2011. When Farnsworth started last season on the disabled list, Rodney claimed the job.

"I have to believe [Rodney's] confidence can't be any higher," Maddon said. "Just when he's walking around you can see the look in his eye about how happy he is to be here. It would be impossible to repeat [2012]. I would agree, but I think he'll be pretty close."

Rodney managed a smile when asked about trying to repeat his 2012 performance this season.

"I think it's hard to repeat," Rodney said, "but I know what I have to do."

Rays fans grew to love Rodney's theatrics after saving a game when he would shoot an imaginary arrow into the sky. When asked if he had plenty of arrows ready for the season, Rodney beamed: "I have a lot of arrows. Maybe even some flaming arrows."

Maddon was asked if 35 saves with a 1.60 ERA would be considered a down year for Rodney.

"It could be considered that," Maddon said, "but as long as the Rays win and we get back to the playoffs and the World Series, I'll be happy with that."