Rodney, Molina return to Rays after Classic final

Rodney, Molina return to Rays after Classic final

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Fernando Rodney and Jose Molina returned to the Rays Thursday morning after participating in the World Baseball Classic, where Rodney's Dominican Republic team defeated Molina's Puerto Rico squad, 3-0, Tuesday night in the title game.

Rodney recorded the final out in all eight of the Dominican Republic's games -- all wins -- which were played over the course of 13 days.

His eight appearances and seven saves set Classic records. He allowed one hit and walked three, but did not allow a run and struck out eight batters in 7 1/3 innings, earning a spot on the All-World Baseball Classic team.

"We played like a family," Rodney said of his experience in the Classic. "Good communication. We bring energy to the field every day. We play baseball like you're supposed to. Play to win the championship, that's why we won the trophy."

Rodney said he wasn't surprised that his team did so well.

"The first exhibition game we played against the Phillies, I saw something different in the field, a lot of energy," Rodney said. "Guys playing together, making plays the way you're supposed to."

Rays manager Joe Maddon believes that Rodney's work in the Classic will help him get off to a good start, but he noted he was most concerned about the "back side" -- whether Rodney will have enough left physically and mentally to get through an entire season.

Rodney will make just two appearances for the remainder of the spring, on Wednesday and then March 30 -- three days before the Rays' April 2 opener against the Orioles.

"I'm ready to go right now for the season," Rodney said. "I feel good now. I feel good. Arm feels good. I feel ready mentally and physically."

While Maddon had concerns about Rodney being used too much, he had equal concerns about Molina being used too little. The Rays catcher played in two games and went hitless in three at-bats. Molina did not sound as if he considered his lack of playing time a problem.

"I did a lot of catching and blocking drills and all of that," Molina said. "I think the only part that I'm behind on a little bit is the hitting part."

Molina played in a Minor League game Thursday to get some at-bats. He said he will play in one of the Rays' split-squad games Friday and another Minor League game Saturday.

"Get as many at-bats as I can," Molina said.

Molina did not play much during the Classic because his brother, Yadier, started the bulk of Puerto Rico's games. Playing with his brother, along with his countrymen, made the experience special.

"I enjoyed that from top to bottom, and all the way to the end, I enjoyed it," Molina said.

As for bragging rights inside the Rays' clubhouse, Molina good-naturedly maintained that Rodney wouldn't be bragging too much since Puerto Rico did all the heavy lifting for the Dominican Republic.

"I think we made it easier for them," Molina said. "We beat Venezuela, we beat the United States, we beat Japan. The only team we couldn't beat was them. We made the road easy for them."

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