K-Rod readies for return to New York

Francisco Rodriguez left New York last month as the Mets closer and will return Friday as the Brewers’ setup man.

As long as his new team keeps winning, K-Rod says his post-trade role is not a problem.

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

“It’s been a month, I haven’t gotten any chances, but we’re winning and [incumbent Brewers closer John] Axford has something really nice going on,” Rodriguez said. “For me to be complaining, or say anything about not getting a save situation sounds really, really selfish. The ballclub is doing everything good out there in the field, so I’ll wait for the opportunity, and, when it comes, make sure I don’t waste it.”

He will reunite with old teammates on Friday, when the Brewers visit New York for the start of a three-game series against the Mets. Asked about returning to Citi Field, where he logged 83 saves in two-plus seasons, Rodriguez shrugged.

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “This is a business, and you have to be able to see that as a part of it. You can’t be in my position and only see my side. You have to take a look at and understand both sides. They did what they have to do.”

It helped that Rodriguez saw a trade coming — even if he didn’t see it coming as early as the All-Star break. The Brewers sent two players to be named later to the Mets for Rodriguez, then days later negotiated a deal to eliminate the clause in his contract that automatically engaged a $17.5 million option for 2012 had he finished 55 games. Rodriguez had already finished 34 games with the Mets, a franchise dealing with off-field issues related to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

In return for Rodriguez agreeing to convert the option into a mutual one, the Brewers increased by $500,000 the cost of the accompanying buyout, to $4 million.

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Rodriguez’s arrival, along with Takashi Saito’s return from the disabled list, has transformed the Brewers’ bullpen into one of the team’s strengths. Rodriguez allowed only three runs in his first 14 appearances, though he did not pitch from Saturday through Wednesday after experiencing leg cramps after running to first base for his first career hit on Friday night.

“It’s been great,” manager Ron Roenicke said of Rodriguez’s role. “Am I happy we aren’t getting him opportunities to save games? No. But I think since we’ve got him, that bullpen has changed. I’ve said all along that I liked our bullpen, but when he got here and he was OK with doing the eighth inning, it’s made it a great bullpen.”

Roenicke has had several conversations with Rodriguez about his role, one as recently as a week ago.

Does K-Rod feel like a big part of the Brewers’ recent surge?

“Not yet,” he said. “Until we accomplish what we accomplish, I don’t want to say anything. I still have a lot of games to contribute to.

“I am definitely having fun. They have done everything possible to open their arms. They made me feel like I’m not only here for four weeks. I feel like I’ve been here since spring. It makes it a lot easier for a player when that happens.”

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