Fernando Rodney ties ... Cy Young? (Yes, really)

April 21st, 2019

Their careers are separated by an entire century, but on Saturday, and Cy Young became equals -- at least in one way.

Young pitched in 906 games over a storied career that began in the 1800s and eventually landed him in the Hall of Fame, with baseball’s most prestigious pitching award bearing his name.

Rodney, working out of the A’s bullpen, pitched in his 906th career game Saturday against the Blue Jays, throwing a scoreless inning in Oakland's 10-1 loss.

Of course, even though Rodney and Young are technically tied in games pitched, those numbers actually are nothing alike. The sport was completely different back in Young’s day, as he set still-standing records for starts (815), innings (7,356) and wins (511) between 1890-1911. Rodney, in contrast, has thrived in the modern era of bullpen usage, never starting a game while throwing less than 900 total innings since his debut in 2002.

Still, that Rodney has fought his way to matching a baseball legend in even one stat speaks to an impressively long-lasting career. Rodney is one of the game’s most distinctive characters -- a plantain-wielding, arrow-shooting original -- not to mention a baseball survivor who has kept his place in an unforgiving league despite plenty of setbacks.

Here then, to celebrate this milestone, are five facts to know about The Fernando Rodney Experience.

1) It’s a non-starter
As mentioned, Rodney has never started a game in the big leagues. Unless the A’s or some future team decides to deploy him as an “opener,” he never will. With his 906 relief appearances, Rodney ranks fifth all-time among pitchers with zero career starts.

Most career games by pitchers with no starts

  1. John Franco: 1,119
  2. Kent Tekulve: 1,050
  3. Trevor Hoffman: 1,035
  4. Francisco Rodriguez: 948
  5. Fernando Rodney: 906

2) '70s style
There were eight players born in the 1970s who appeared in the Majors in 2018. But Adrian Beltre, Bartolo Colon, Victor Martinez, Peter Moylan, Ichiro Suzuki, Chase Utley and Brad Ziegler have either retired officially or are no longer with a big league organization, and only Suzuki has appeared in an MLB game in ‘19.

That leaves Rodney as the last 70s baby still standing. The 42-year-old was born on March 18, 1977, in the Dominican Republic, and at 42, is the only player 40 or older remaining on an active roster.

3) Traveling man
Rodney signed with the Tigers as an amateur free agent in 1997, debuted in 2002, and remained with Detroit until leaving as a free agent after the ‘09 season. Since then, his career has taken him to the Angels, Rays, Mariners, Cubs, Padres, Marlins, D-backs, Twins and now A’s, with Rodney getting traded three times and signing as a free agent six times.

That makes Rodney the only active player to have suited up for 10 different franchises, and the 33rd to do so in modern baseball history (since 1901). The only other active players to have played for nine teams are pitchers Jesse Chavez and Zach Duke.

4) Been there, done that
Through the years, Rodney has seen it all. He has faced all 30 teams at least nine times each. He has pitched in 36 different ballparks, including four that are no longer in use, plus special sites Fort Bragg (North Carolina), Hiram Bithorn Stadium (Puerto Rico), and the Tokyo Dome. The only current stadium he is missing is Atlanta’s SunTrust Park, which opened in 2017.

Rodney has thrown to 40 different catchers, including current Astros manager AJ Hinch. He has faced nearly 1,000 different batters, including nine who already have been voted into the Hall of Fame: Roberto Alomar, Ken Griffey Jr., Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez, Frank Thomas, and Jim Thome.

Rodney superlatives
Most common opponent: Indians and Royals (62 games)
Most common ballpark: Comerica Park, Detroit (179 games)
Most common catcher: Ivan Rodriguez (120 games)
Most common batter: Asdrubal Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta (27 PA)

5) An all-time season
Admittedly, it hasn’t always been pretty for Rodney, even as he has held on to a place in the Majors. Over his first two seasons in Detroit, he posted a 6.04 ERA in 47 appearances. Since then, he has completed as many seasons with an ERA over 4.00 as under (seven apiece), and owns an 8.00 mark in the early going this year.

But don’t forget about 2012. Coming off a mediocre season with the Angels, Rodney signed with the Rays and put together the first of his three All-Star campaigns, finishing fifth in the AL Cy Young Award race -- there's that name again -- and even garnering some MVP votes. Rodney allowed just two earned runs over his final 52 appearances that year, setting an ERA record for pitchers with at least 50 innings (since surpassed).

Lowest single-season ERA
(Minimum 50 IP)

  1. Zack Britton: 0.54 (2016 Orioles)

2) Fernando Rodney: 0.60 (2012 Rays)
3) Dennis Eckersley: 0.61 (1990 A’s)
4) Rob Murphy: 0.72 (1986 Reds)
5) Blake Treinen: 0.78 (2018 A’s)