K-Rod, Braun appreciate All-Star selections
Earlier this season, Brewers All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez surpassed his mentor.
Rodriguez entered the big leagues in 2002 after converting from the rotation to the bullpen a year prior. He quickly became the setup man for Angels all-time great closer Troy Percival, who took the then 20-year-old Venezuelan under his wing.
"He taught me the right way," Rodriguez said in Cincinnati before Tuesday's All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile. "I'll never forget."
Percival finished his career with 358 saves, ranking eighth on the all-time list when he retired in 2009. When Percival left the Angels after the 2004 season, it was Rodriguez who replaced him as the closer. Eleven years later, on June 8, 2015, Rodriguez eclipsed Percival's total after a perfect ninth inning in Pittsburgh.
Rodriguez, now 33 and a six-time All-Star, threw in the high-90s with a devastating curveball when his career first started. Nowadays, he relies on a high-80s fastball and a changeup.
"I went from a thrower to a pitcher," Rodriguez said. "Before, whatever the catcher put there I just threw it as hard as I can. Nowadays, I rely more on my release point and my command."
What a young Rodriguez knew was how to pitch with his brawn. What he later learned was how to pitch with his brain.
"It's satisfying both ways," Rodriguez said. He went on with a smile, "but don't get me wrong, I enjoy blowing people away too."
Nearly four years ago to the date, Rodriguez was traded to the Brewers to be their setup man after a six-year run as the closer with the Angels and the Mets. After struggling in the setup role in 2012, his days as a closer may have appeared to be dwindling. He's since enjoyed a career resurgence, though, saving 73-of-78 opportunities since the start of 2013 and going a perfect 19-for-19 this year, earning him a trip to his second consecutive All-Star Game.
A decade after being passed the torch by Percival, Rodriguez one-upped his mentor. Rodriguez is a far different pitcher than he used to be, but he's still succeeding, and he isn't looking to stop anytime soon.
"I don't see myself pitching another 10 years," Rodriguez said when asked where he hopes to end up on the all-time saves list. "But definitely, I would love to see myself in the top three to top five."
Rodriguez's teammate, outfielder Ryan Braun, will also be playing in the Midsummer Classic for the sixth time.
Braun's sixth appearance with the Brewers is a franchise record, eclipsing the five times apiece that Cecil Cooper and Paul Molitor represented Milwaukee. Another Hall of Famer, Robin Yount, played 20 seasons and made only three All-Star teams.
"I think as you get older, you have a greater perspective on just how difficult it is to make one All-Star team, never mind multiple All-Star teams," Braun said on Sunday. "You look around the league now, and it's really dominated by young players moreso than ever before."
During the All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile in Cincinnati on Tuesday, fans can once again visit MLB.com to submit their choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. Voting exclusively at MLB.com, online and via their mobile devices in the 2015 All-Star Game MVP Vote presented by Chevrolet, the fans' collective voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
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The 86th Midsummer Classic will be televised nationally by FOX Sports (coverage begins 6 p.m. CT), in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.