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ESPN’s Szymborski: D-backs should demote Fernando Rodney

Arizona Diamondbacks' Fernando Rodney celebrates the final out against the Colorado Rockies in a baseball game Saturday, July 1, 2017, in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks defeated the Rockies 6-2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It’s easy to call for a player’s job.

It’s harder for a manager to take it from them if the manager’s own job is to embolden the player.

Some Diamondbacks fans may not call closer Fernando Rodney a consistent force, but manager Torey Lovullo’s patience through the veteran’s early-season struggles paid off with a successful stretch.

Yet, Rodney’s season ERA still sits at 5.58, and ESPN’s Dan Szymborski would side against Lovullo’s decision to keep the 40-year-old as the closer. In his list of one move every team should make in the second half of 2017, Szymborski said demoting Rodney is the thing for the D-backs to do.

Fernando Rodney has been used in the highest-leverage situations of any reliever in baseball (minimum 20 innings). Has that ever struck anybody as a good idea? Andrew Chafin and Archie Bradley are the team’s two best relievers. Give them the most crucial situations. It’s OK to demote Rodney — that’s not a real longbow he’s carrying on the mound.

Here’s the case against that: From the start of May to the All-Star break, Rodney tossed 20.2 innings and allowed five earned runs for a 2.18 ERA — that included a 20-appearance stretch of scoreless baseball save for an unearned run.

All of the earned runs during that time came in a two-game stretch on July 2 and July 6, the latter of which blew a three-run D-backs lead in the ninth against the rival Dodgers.

If Arizona changes Rodney’s role, there’s a decent argument Bradley is the man to replace him. The former starter has taken to the bullpen well by allowing five earned runs in 41 frames (1.10 ERA) with 47 strikeouts to eight walks on the season.

Meanwhile, the lefty Chafin has quietly impressed with six earned runs allowed in 30 frames.

While some may hope for either Bradley or Chafin to shift into a closer’s role, don’t expect Lovullo to make the move soon. For a person who is in the NL Manager of the Year race due to the trust he has built with his players, expect the Diamondbacks to take a cautious approach to any big changes.

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