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Rodney better, but staying in setup role

Mariners sticking with Smith as closer, though veteran could get chances

SEATTLE -- Fernando Rodney hasn't allowed a hit in his last three appearances in a setup role, but Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon indicated rookie Carson Smith would continue handling closing duties for now.

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Rodney has a 2.25 ERA with one run, two hits, two walks and three strikeouts in four games since being moved out of the closer's role and zipped through a 1-2-3 seventh inning against the Giants in Tuesday's 6-2 loss.

"I've been very pleased," McClendon said prior to Wednesday's game against the Giants as Seattle returned home to open an eight-game homestand. "He's gotten a lot of ground balls, a lot of strikes. He's adding and subtracting from the fastball. Slowing down and letting the arm catch up. He's close."

For now, Smith remains the go-to guy in the ninth, however, having posted a 1.67 ERA in 28 appearances this year and going 2-for-2 in save opportunities since the switch. Rodney, who led the American League with 48 saves last year, has a 6.26 ERA in 28 outings.

Video: [email protected]: C. Smith closes it out, earns second save

"We'll see how things go," McClendon said. "Obviously Carson has done a nice job. I've said all along, the biggest question with Carson is the ability to go back-to-back and sometimes back-to-back-to-back or three out of five. I would say this: On days when Smith cannot go, you might see Rodney or a combination of Rodney and somebody else."

McClendon said the 38-year-old Rodney has been willing to work on some changes, including taking something off his fastball at times to mix things up and keep from overthrowing.

"It's somewhat of an adjustment, but I think the biggest thing is having the player buy into the fact he needs to make those adjustments," McClendon said. "He's a very talented individual. Obviously you can look at the saves he's accumulated over the years. But he's been willing to make the change and that's big.

"He's been a real good teammate throughout all of this. And listen, we need Fernando Rodney if we're going to be successful this year. I think he's well on the way back to being that pitcher we all want him to be."

James Paxton, on the 15-day disabled list since May 29 with a strained left middle finger, isn't ready to begin throwing yet as he awaits doctor's clearance. Paxton said he can grip a ball, but still feels soreness when he tries to snap off a throw. McClendon said the plan to have him begin playing catch later this week has been delayed.

"He's just doing conditioning and core stuff," McClendon said. "I'm a little frustrated for him right now."

Hisashi Iwakuma, the Mariners' other starter on the disabled list, remains on schedule to make his first Minor League rehab start Saturday for Class A Advanced Everett in a 6:05 p.m. PT game against Eugene as he returns from a strained lat muscle.

James Jones walked twice, stole a base and forced a throwing error on Giants catcher Andrew Susac in his first game up with the Mariners on Tuesday, offering a reminder of what he brings to the table.

"He's got an impact tool," McClendon said. "He has the ability to steal bases when you know he's going to steal them. Lo and behold, he stole one and then he's standing on third. That's what speed does. It's nice to have him and hopefully he'll be very impactful for us going down the stretch."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Seattle Mariners, Carson Smith, Fernando Rodney