ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — During pregame stretch Tuesday, shortstop Erick Aybar embraced Fernando Rodney and playfully tugged at the Tampa Bay Rays closer's goatee. Rodney shook hands with Albert Pujols and hugged several Angels relievers.
There were no such pleasantries between Rodney and Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, not after Rodney, the former Angels reliever, fell out of favor with Scioscia and was buried on the bench in August and September.
"I haven't talked to him, I won't seek him out," Rodney said of Scioscia. "There's nothing to really say about last year. All I can say is I'm here, I have an opportunity, and I'm doing great."
Indeed, Rodney has a 1.23 earned-run average and five saves in nine games, limiting opponents to an .083 average in 71/3 innings. Only four of 26 batters he has faced have reached base, two on singles and two on walks.
This will come as a surprise to Angels fans who remember Rodney as the hard-throwing right-hander who couldn't find the strike zone and could not be trusted in key situations for much of 2011.
Rodney opened the season as the Angels closer and lost the job to rookie Jordan Walden in the first weekend. He appeared in 25 games through May but sat out five weeks of June and July because of a back strain and appeared in only 14 games the rest of the season, finishing with a 3-5 record, 4.50 ERA, 28 walks and 26 strikeouts in 32 innings.
"I don't know how you can make a decision like that in the first three games," Rodney said. "They took me out of the closer spot, and the other guy led the league [with 10] blown saves. I don't know how that works."
Scioscia said Rodney's problems started in September 2010, when he "wasn't as sharp as he usually is," the manager said. "That seemed to carry over into 2011, when he was not as comfortable. He missed five weeks with the back injury and never got back in sync. The arm was there, but he couldn't locate it."
Where's Mark Trumbo?
Mark Trumbo knew he could play five positions this season. The utility player did not, however, expect to play all five within a five-game span.
But there was Trumbo in right field Tuesday night, capping a five-game string in which he started at designated hitter Thursday, left field Friday, third base Saturday and first base Sunday.
"It's fairly interesting," said Trumbo, who was pushed off first by the signing of Pujols. "At the same time, it's exciting."
Tropicana Field's grayish, opaque roof can make it difficult for veteran outfielders to pick up the ball, but Trumbo handled the only ball hit to him, going back on Carlos Pena's first-inning drive before scooting in to catch it.