K-Rod 'struggling even to walk'; Izzy in the saves mix for Rays


We have two pieces of closer news today that can't be ignored. The first comes to us from New York, via the Daily News:

Francisco Rodriguez(notes) was taken to a Boston hospital via ambulance after Saturday night's dramatic 3-2 win over the Red Sox with back spasms that made him so uncomfortable, team brass didn't want him to have to navigate traffic in a private vehicle or team bus, a Mets official said. ... The closer slowly dressed after the team's victory. Bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello helped him by fastening a supportive belt around Rodriguez's torso at his locker. The hunched-over pitcher gingerly tried walking out of the clubhouse. Eventually, a golf cart was summoned to the corridor outside the visitors' clubhouse. Then a stretcher.

"I've never experienced some pain like the way that I have right now," Rodriguez said. "I've been struggling even to walk."

In this situation the add is clear: JJ Putz(notes). He earned the save on Saturday, pitching a scoreless, K-less, defense-dependent ninth.

Putz obviously has a history as an elite closer, though he hasn't done a good impression of one so far this season. His current K/9 isn't close to his normal rate (6.4 in '08 vs. 9.2 career) and he's dealt with neck and elbow issues. The velocity on his average fastball is down a couple ticks, too, from 95.0 mph in '08 to 93.3 in '09. According to Gameday, however, he worked in the 94-97 mph range on Saturday.

For fantasy purposes he's not entirely safe, but he's still the guy to own short-term in K-Rod's absence -- and no, we don't yet know how long Rodriguez will be shelved. The next encouraging thing he says will be the first. Another quote from the Daily News:

"We'll see how the back responds (today)," Rodriguez said. "Otherwise we'll get some shot or whatever will make it a lot better, because right now it's real painful."

He doesn't sound like someone who intends to pitch over the next few days. If you're backing up Putz and/or betting on his failure, consider 100-mph Bobby Parnell(notes).


There's no clarity in Tampa Bay just yet, where closing duties are still officially handled by a sketchy committee. Via MLB.com:

The Rays' skipper said he won't have a set closer lined up for the ninth inning in games. He's just going to factor in who hasn't been used, who's rested, who's hot and who matches up better in any situation.

When the Percival-to-the-DL news broke, four different Rays relievers were added to rosters in the Friends & Family league -- Joe Nelson(notes), Jason Isringhausen(notes), JP Howell(notes) (since dropped for Putz), Dan Wheeler(notes) -- and that's probably the way things went in most competitive, saves-chasing groups.

Isringhausen pitched the ninth inning of a 10-3 Rays' win on Saturday. That wouldn't mean much under normal circumstances, but Tampa had actually scored six runs in the top of the inning. Izzy was apparently going to get the ninth even if the score was 4-3 and a save was in play:

On Saturday, Maddon used Howell -- who gave up two runs -- and Balfour to pitch the seventh. Then, with a one-run lead, he used Wheeler as his eighth-inning man and went with Isringhausen in the ninth after the Rays extended the lead to seven -- though Maddon said the 36-year-old right-hander was the man for that frame regardless.

Isringhausen was simply a walking plague last year, so don't go braggin' if you pick him up. He's the sort of guy you look to trade as soon as you add him.


Photos via AP Images