11:26 AM CDT, March 19, 2013
YOUR MORNING PHIL: Plantains, all-WBC, Maddon
Talking baseball while wondering if anyone remembers where to find Tru TV:
1. Fernando Rodney is the Dominican Republic’s magic man, appearing in all seven of the Dominicans’ wins, to the concern of the Tampa Bay Rays. He now rides the power of the Magic Plantain, always in the company of an oversized banana-like fruit that was shipped to him from Santo Domingo, special delivery.
Rodney shoves the fruit into his baseball pants, where the top half sticks out like a pistol. He occasionally takes it out and waves it in the air, and even says it speaks to him. He told reporters the fruit told him, "If you keep me close to you, you're going to get the win."
One more win, tonight against Puerto Rico, and the Dominican powerhouse not only would have won the World Baseball Classic but dominated it, becoming the first undefeated team in the event’s short history. No wonder the DR’s manager doesn’t mind that his closer is talking to plantains.
"You need to find a way," Tony Pena said after Monday night’s 4-1 semifinal win over the Netherlands. "How are you going to lose the stress? How are you going to keep your whole group of players laughing, keeping loose?
"So I got surprised when I saw Rodney with a banana, a plantain on the side. I think he pulled them out. I just laughed. Right in the middle of the game, this made everybody laugh. And the ballclub, the game like this, you need to have a little bit of fun. You need to find a way to loosen up. And I'm glad that he did it."
Rodney is part of a bullpen that has been the biggest key to success for a Dominican team that has Wandy Rodriguez, Edinson Volquez and the under-rated Samuel Deduno as its starting pitchers.
Assuming the Dominicans win Tuesday night, there will be an argument over whether the Most Valuable Player should be Rodney (six saves, one hit, no runs allowed in 6 1-3 innings) or Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano (.517, 2 homers, 1.410 OPS), who might have done more damage if he wasn’t twice walked intentionally by the Dutch.
2. Here’s my unofficial all-WBC team: SP – Wandy Rodriguez, D.R. (Deduno could replace him with a strong start tonight); Nelson Figueroa, Puerto Rico; Diegomar Markwell, Netherlands; RP – Rodney, RP – Pedro Strop, D.R., RP – Hiram Burgos, P.R.; C—Joe Mauer, U.S.; 1B – Jose Abreu, Cuba; 2B – Cano; SS – Mike Aviles, P.R. (over Jose Reyes, who has also been very good); 3B – David Wright, U.S., OF – Michael Saunders, Canada; OF – Alfredo Despaigne, Cuba, OF – Martin Prado, Venezuela, DH – Chris Colabello, Italy.
3. Did I mention that the Rays aren’t too happy with the WBC’s managers? Joe Maddon is fuming because Puerto Rico has essentially forgotten backup catcher Jose Molina (two games, three at-bats), who could be his primary catcher, while the Dominican Republic has badly overworked Rodney. “You’re pitching at such a high level, the way the Dominicans are dealing with this, it’s almost like a playoff situation so there’s a lot of amperage going on there,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said the other day in Florida. “We’ll see how this all plays out. ... There’s going to be some kind of ‘woof’ after this whole thing’s over.’’
Rodney will be watched closely when the season starts. WBC organizers should cross their fingers that he holds up because he will become Exhibit A against the event if he breaks down.
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