Rodney soaks in first trip to All-Star Game
Making third trip, lefty Price becoming Midsummer Classic fixture
KANSAS CITY -- Separated in age by nearly a decade and having advanced down contrasting career paths, Fernando Rodney and David Price were embracing the same experience on Monday.
And yet, that same experience evoked very different meanings for the two.
For Rodney, a first-time All-Star, the selection is not only a highlight of his now 10-year career, but also recognition of how far he's come in the past 12 months. At this time last summer, Rodney was sloshing through another disappointing year in southern California. The two-year, $11 million deal he signed with the Angels had hardly been worth the investment.
He was not only often unreliable, but also sometimes a liability in the Angels 'pen.
A year later, after signing an offseason deal with Tampa Bay, Rodney has positioned himself as one of the best comeback stories of the season. Rodney, who owns a 0.93 ERA, shook his head right-to-left when asked on Monday if, last year, he could have envisioned being a part of this midseason event.
"I was not pitching well," Rodney answered. "I was feeling like I didn't have a job at that time."
But Rodney, 35, embraced the opportunity to play in a new setting, and he worked out some mechanical issues in his home country of the Dominican Republic during the winter. When he returned this season, so did his fastball command, which makes Rodney's devastating changeup even more of a weapon.
"I knew my stuff was there," Rodney said. "The only thing I was looking for was to bring it into the game and show people that I can compete in the division."
After saving 17 games for the Angels in 2010 and '11, Rodney already has 25 in 26 opportunities for the Rays this season. He is easily on pace to surpass his career high of 37, which he notched as the Tigers' closer in '09.
"He's been unbelievable," Price said of his All-Star teammate. "He's been above and beyond what everybody thought he was going to do for us. The save opportunities he's had, I really don't feel like he's ever had those pressure situations. His innings are pretty efficient. He gets those early outs. He's done very well for us, and he's kept us in it this year."
Rodney is just the latest example of a player rejuvenated by a stop in Tampa Bay. He is the ninth player acquired by club executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman through free agency, the First-Year Player Draft or via a trade to make his first All-Star team while with the Rays.
In addition, Rodney is the 12th different Rays player to make the All-Star team since 2008. Only one team has had more All-Stars over the past five seasons -- the Red Sox with 16.
Price does not join Rodney as an All-Star newbie, but rather as a Midsummer Classic fixture for the past three seasons. The top pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Price started for the AL in '10, which was also his first All-Star appearance. He did not allow a run in two innings.
Last year, Price was sidelined with turf toe, though he still participated in the two days of All-Star festivities.
Price, who has a 2.82 ERA and an AL-best 11 wins, was a candidate to start again this year. That nod, though ended up going to Detroit's Justin Verlander.
Still, Price's season credentials suggest he'll be one of the first to follow Verlander. The 26-year-old lefty has worked at least seven innings in 10 of his last 12 starts, and he has allowed two or fewer runs in 12 of his 17 outings this season.
"I would like to help this team win," said Price, who joins Evan Longoria as the only Rays players to make the All-Star team in three consecutive seasons.
"It's for the AL. It's for the postseason and home-field advantage. That is a very big factor when you get to that point in the season."
Price also joked on Monday that pressure to perform on Tuesday may be matched by the pressure induced by his young nephew, who, too, is enjoying the opportunity to become an All-Star regular.
"My nephew gets to hang out here with me in the Home Run Derby, and I think that's the thing I probably enjoy the most," Price said. "After that first year, he asked me if we could come to the All-Star Game every year, and I told him that I'd try."
Price stopped and grinned.
"I don't want to upset my 8-year-old nephew," he said.
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.