Triumphant Rodney returns to Rays Thursday

Triumphant Rodney returns to Rays Thursday

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After playing a pivotal role in the Dominican Republic's undefeated run toward claiming its first World Baseball Classic title, Fernando Rodney will return to Rays camp on Thursday.

The Rays closer was named to the All-World Baseball Classic team. Rodney recorded the final out in all eight of the Dominican Republic's games, which were played over the course of 13 days.

His eight appearances and seven saves set Classic records. In all, he allowed no runs on one hit, three walks and eight strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said the team plans to work him back into the swing of things gradually, noting that he won't pitch in an actual exhibition game for five or six days.

"We'll evaluate him once he gets back, see how he feels," Maddon said. "Because I think there's going to be an emotional letdown as much as anything. He really got into it, man. It was fun to watch how totally absorbed how all those teams were. They really wanted to win."

Maddon allowed that Rodney did "a lot" of pitching at a high intensity level.

"We've got to watch him," Maddon said. "Yes, there's a physical impact, I don't know how that's going to play out by the end of the year. Let him chill for a little bit and then get back to work."

Meanwhile, catcher Jose Molina was on the Puerto Rico roster, but wasn't the starter, which brought another set of problems.

Molina "didn't play," Maddon said. "That's the other side of this event that can be difficult when guys go and don't play. You have a guy who maybe worked too much and a guy who didn't work enough. I think that's going to happen every time this event is run."

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