akland, Calif. — He had preferred to not talk after Saturday night’s ninth-inning collapse at Oakland Coliseum. There was no way, at least in Francisco Rodriguez’s view, he could, or would, avoid speaking Sunday.
“Totally embarrassing,” the reliever known as K-Rod said in the quiet of a visitor’s clubhouse after he had been assaulted for three runs in the ninth that turned the Tigers’ 6-5 lead into an 8-6 victory for the A’s. “I can’t remember going through such a bad moment in my career. I apologize to my team and to my fans. I wanted to get some redemption (for Saturday).
“But I guess not.”
The horror was, of course, relative in that it was a big-league baseball game that got away from Rodriguez and the Tigers in back-to-back situations Saturday and Sunday.
But philosophy wasn’t part of Sunday’s picture. A bullpen closer’s failure had destroyed a team’s chances to sweep the A’s at the start of a huge, nine games out West trip.
Two losses, each delivered almost directly by Rodriguez, rested like 100-pound bags on a 35-year-old reliever’s shoulders as he stood in front of his clubhouse locker.
“I’m having a really bad stretch right now,” said Rodriguez, who has seven saves and five blown finishes in the season’s first five weeks.
“I’ve got to throw quality strikes. I’ve got to correct the problems. There’s no excuse about it.
“Right now, I’m not throwing quality pitches,” said K-Rod, whose ERA is a ghastly 8.49. “I’m not fooling anyone.
“That’s what hurts me. I don’t even give the guys (Tigers teammates) a chance to bat in the bottom of the ninth.”
Rodriguez is on the final year of a contract that this season will pay him $6 million. The Tigers had hoped they could squeeze yet another full season from a right-handed fireman who last year had 44 saves. They had thought, as well, that Rodriguez could be tempting trade bait at July’s deadline should they be in sell mode 10 weeks from now.
But their anointed closer did not throw well in spring camp. And while he has those seven saves, Rodriguez has not thrown acceptably, not on balance, in the Tigers’ initial 30 games.
His fastball rarely hits 90 mph. His premier pitch, his change-up, has been getting hit hard or has been missing. Given big-league baseball’s actuarial data, it might be that Rodriguez, at age 35, has simply run out of longevity after 16 seasons.
“I don’t see it that way,” he said when asked if career twilight might have arrived.
The Tigers weren’t sure Sunday how to see it —Rodriguez’s ongoing role, their ninth-inning plight, or what changes might be made as more bullpen strife and drama again collided with a team from Detroit.
Jones staying in Toledo
JaCoby Jones was removed Sunday from his rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo.
And then the Tigers’ starting center fielder, at least through April’s initial three weeks, was told he would be sticking with the Mud Hens.
“We’ll miss his defense,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, “but we hope time at Toledo will have long-term benefits.”
Jones, who on Tuesday turns 25, played in 16 games for the Tigers and batted .150. He was knocked from the lineup on April 22 when Jones was hit in the face by a pitch against the Twins at Minneapolis.
It seemed a good fit for both parties when James Loney, the one-time Dodgers star and first baseman, hooked on with the Tigers last month after 11 big-league seasons elsewhere. But it didn’t work out in a three-week audition at Triple-A Toledo.
Loney, who on Sunday turned 33, was released by the Tigers after he struggled to bat even .200. His roster spot was taken when Jones was reassigned from his rehab tune-up.
Loney has played with the Dodgers, Red Sox, Rays and Mets.
Tigers starter Daniel Norris had another so-so day. And so-so wasn’t of much comfort to him.
He lasted two outs into the fifth. The A’s rapped him for eight hits, five runs (four earned), and earned a couple of walks against four strikeouts.
“It’ll come and go,” Norris said of the intermittent ways in which his pitches worked, or didn’t work. “I don’t know where it goes, but I’ve got to limit it.”
Norris, in fact, has been confounding his team, as well as himself, with his streaks.
On Sunday, he had a lovely first inning, getting the A’s in the first on three ground-ball outs. He pitched a scoreless, one-hit second and seemed ready to delve deep into his start.
But in the third, an error by Dixon Machado (starting at second in place of Ian Kinsler, out with a bad hamstring), and a pair of doubles helped the A’s to two runs and a 2-1 lead.
In the fourth, a leadoff walk, a home-run pitch to Yonder Alonso, followed by back-to-back singles, pushed home two more runs. The fifth was no better: line-drive out, single, walk, single —not even two strikeouts enabled Norris to make it through the inning.
“He’s a little inconsistent,” said Ausmus, who can understate with the best of them.