Fernando Rodneys storybook year with the Tampa Bay Rays includes a new chapter today.
The man who set the all-time major league mark with a spectacular ERA of 0.60 and set the Rays saves record with 48 was named American League Comeback Player of the Year and MLBs Delivery Man of the Year.
The latter honor recognizes the most outstanding relief pitcher of the regular season and is voted on by a panel from Major League Baseball.
Not bad for a journeyman reliever who showed up at camp in Port Charlotte, Fla., in February not even knowing what his bullpen role would be. The closer role had been handled by Kyle Farnsworth in 2011, and Rodney just wanted to contribute following two frustrating seasons with the Los Angeles Angels.
But when Farnsworths lingering elbow injury forced him onto the disabled list just before the start of the season, Rays manager Joe Maddon turned the closer duties over to Rodney, and he never looked back. The right-hande soon became a fan favorite with his popular bow-and-arrow imitation to celebrate every save.
Perhaps the best news of all is that Rodney is under contract with the Rays through 2013. Rodney also has been mentioned as a candidate for AL Cy Young Award along with Tampa Bays 20-game winner David Price
With a blistering fastball and devastatingly deceptive change-up, Rodney flourished with newfound confidence and success. He appeared in 76 games and surpassed Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersleys 1990 ERA record of 0.61, which he set as the closer for the Oakland As. In addition, Rodney, 35, joined Eckersley as the only other pitcher in major league history to post at least 40 saves with an ERA lower than 1.00.
Rodneys 48 saves broke the team record of 45 set in 2010 by Rafael Soriano and was second in the majors this season Jim Johnson saved 51 games for the Baltimore Orioles. It was a far cry from his 2011 campaign with the Angels, when Rodney went 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA and three saves and wanted to be traded after being demoted from the closers role.
He was named to the All-Star team for the first time in his 10-year career, pitching a perfect ninth inning in the AL's 8-0 loss in July. He led the majors with a 96.0 save percentage, closing 48-of-50 opportunities.
Rodney is the second member of the Rays to win the comeback award, joining Carlos Pena, who won it in 2007.
The Dominican Republic native is certainly in good company in the Delivery Man of the Year Award. Past winners include three-time recipient Mariano Rivera (2005, '06 and '09), Jonathan Papelbon ('07), Brad Lidge ('08), Heath Bell ('10) and Jose Valverde ('11).
Meanwhile, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey won the National League Comeback Player of the Year. After suffering a season-ending leg injury in 2011, Posey, a former Florida State University sensation, led the NL in hitting with a 336 batting average and had career-highs with 24 homers, 39 doubles, 78 runs, 69 walks and a .408 on-base percentage.