Rodney to set up closer Ramos with Marlins

July 1st, 2016

ATLANTA -- For now, the arrow is on standby. But if down the line a save chance arises, Fernando Rodney will be ready to let it fly.

On Friday, the newly acquired Marlins reliever was informed his role would be pitching the eighth inning, setting up A.J. Ramos, who had converted all 24 of his save chances this season until surrending a game-tying homer to Tyler Flowers in the ninth of a 7-5 12-inning win. David Phelps, who had been handling the eighth, will now slide into the seventh.

"Obviously, with A.J., and with what he's been able to do, he's been perfect," manager Don Mattingly said. "He's been really good for us. It would be hard for me to take that out of our mix. Our back end has been good. Fernando makes us better. I talked to Fernando about being our eighth-inning guy. It gives us four guys for that back end."

The Marlins also recalled lefty Justin Nicolino, while designating lefty Jo-Jo Reyes for assignment and optioning right-hander Brian Ellington to Triple-A New Orleans.

Rodney, who converted all 17 of his save chances with the Padres, is fine with being in a setup role. Of course, that means the 39-year-old will not be able to do his signature shooting of the arrow, his calling card following saves.

"I'm going to save the arrow right now," Rodney said. "But if you have a chance, you're going to see [the arrow] landing."

Rodney, who has 253 big league saves, was dealt from the Padres to the Marlins on Thursday for pitching prospect Chris Paddack.  

Rodney has enjoyed a sensational season, posting a 0.31 ERA in 28 games spanning 28 2/3 innings. He has struck out 33, with a WHIP of 0.87.

Why the success?

"I'm just preparing myself very well when I cross the line," Rodney said. "When I go out there, I try to throw strikes. I focus on my game, and the hitters I face. This game sometimes is difficult. I feel like when you're patient and focused, you can have a lot of success. I think my fastball command for a strike has impressed this year. That's why I have a number like you say."

The way the bullpen shapes up, Kyle Barraclough, previously in the seventh, will be available for the sixth inning or occasional two-inning stints. Dustin McGowan and Nick Wittgren are the long relievers, while Mike Dunn is the lone lefty.

The Marlins anticipate being in the postseason picture, and Rodney strengthens the back end because he is also capable of closing if Ramos isn't available or if he struggles at some point.

But Ramos has been All-Star worthy, posting a 1.74 ERA in 33 games. Dating back to last year, he had converted 33 straight chances until Friday, which tied Steve Cishek's team record. Phelps has been the most-used reliever, logging 42 innings in 38 games.

"Fernando has got a track record of being a big-time guy," Mattingly said. "He's got over 250 saves. He's been there, done that."

Besides not closing, Rodney must also shave his beard to comply with team policy.

"That's the rule they have here," Rodney said. "I like to play baseball and have fun. I don't worry about shaving. Have fun with my teammates. Play good. Play hard. That's it."