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Record-setting Rodriguez drinks it all in

September 15, 2008|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

Not even 14 hours had passed since Francisco Rodriguez set a major league record with 58 saves, and already he had a new goal in mind.

"Next year, I'll be saving 50 more," he said.

For the Angels?

"I would love to, but it's not up to me," said Rodriguez, a free agent this fall. "I don't make that decision.

"I would like to be the king of the world, but I can't, right?"

He felt pretty regal anyway Sunday, after receiving congratulatory phone calls and text messages from friends and family in Venezuela. Saturday's game was not televised there, he said, but everyone back home watched "on the computer."

His teammates presented him with a celebratory bottle of champagne, decorated with all their autographs, in silver. Bobby Thigpen, whose record Rodriguez broke, sent a congratulatory note.

Rodriguez wasn't boasting about saving 50 more games, just responding to a question about Thigpen's career trajectory. Thigpen saved 57 games at age 27, but he never again topped 30, and his career ended at age 30.

Rodriguez, 26, said he saw no reason why he could not maintain his workload and success. He has never been on the disabled list because of a shoulder or elbow injury, despite repeated predictions from analysts that his violent delivery inevitably would result in injury, and he has developed a changeup to complement his fastball and slider.

Playoff prep

Although the Angels have clinched a playoff berth and Rodriguez has set the save record, he does not want to rest for an extended period, and the team has no plan to enforce one.

"I've been feeling so sharp," Rodriguez said. "I don't know how it's going to affect me if I sit for three, four or five days and don't pitch."

Manager Mike Scioscia said Rodriguez would have pitched Sunday, had a save situation arisen. Scioscia said he would make sure to use Rodriguez during the season's final weekend, as a tuneup for the playoffs but would not otherwise change how the Angels use him.

"We're still in the business of winning games," Scioscia said.

Rodriguez set a career high with his 70th appearance Saturday, but he has exceeded his 64 1/3 innings in each of his five previous major league seasons. He has not been used in more than three consecutive games this season.

"His workload has been manageable," Scioscia said. "I don't think he needs an artificial five- or six-day shutdown."

Cutting it close

Shortstop Erick Aybar (hamstring) could return during this week's series in Oakland, Scioscia said, but second baseman Howie Kendrick (hamstring) is not expected to return this week. The Angels could send him to instructional league to get some at-bats before the playoffs, or to see if he can be ready for the playoffs.

Short hops

Scioscia said outfielder Torii Hunter (quadriceps) is expected to return Tuesday and outfielders Vladimir Guerrero (knee) and Juan Rivera (hip) are expected to return soon thereafter.


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