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Rodney tips cap to good spring debut

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- New Mariners closer Fernando Rodney took the mound for the first time in Cactus League action on Thursday, gave up a run in his debut and then explained both his late start and his tilted cap.

Rodney, 37, said he likes to begin a little later than most pitchers, particularly after overworking himself prior to last season with the Rays and then getting off to a rough beginning.

"Last year, I threw a lot," he said. "I threw in the Dominican. I threw in the Caribbean Series, I threw in the [World Baseball Classic] and I threw in Spring Training. I felt a little tired early in the season. But I recovered and came back, and this year is going to be different. I'm more fresh now."

Rodney, a 2012 All-Star with the Rays when he posted a 0.60 ERA with 48 saves, started out with a 5.40 ERA in his first 29 outings last season before finishing with 1.88 ERA over his final 39 appearances. He finished with 37 saves and 3.38 ERA before signing a two-year, $14 million deal with Seattle.

He gave up two hits and a run to the White Sox while pitching the fourth inning of Thursday's 7-4 win, but said all was fine as he worked on his fastball location in his initial outing.

"I feel strong," Rodney said. "I think I need more games now and keep working hard. That's it."

As for his cap, which he has famously worn at an angle with the bill sticking slightly to the left whenever he takes the mound?

Rodney said he began tilting his hat several years ago, about the time he started having more success. And he's not about to change now.

"That is something to confuse the hitter," he said. "They want to look at your eyes. They think I'm not looking at them. If they can't see your face, they don't know what you're going to throw. And the runner at first thinks I'm looking at them and sometimes they stop."

Anything for an edge, in other words.

"That's baseball," he said. "Every time you try to do something to improve. Every day you come to this game, you don't know what is going to happen. So that is what I do now and everything is working right. If they try to discover me, then maybe I'll try to do something different."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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