Francisco Rodriguez knows it’s not 2008 anymore. He doesn’t have a home in Los Angeles, nor is he one of the most automatic closers that Major League Baseball has ever seen. Central Islip, home of the independent Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks, is a long way from where Rodriguez once was, but not necessarily a long way from where he wants to be.
“It’s a new chapter in my career and my life,” Rodriguez, 36, said Friday afternoon before the Ducks’ home opener against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs at Bethpage Ballpark. “I’m extremely excited and happy. It’s been so long without being on the field that I just want to jump right in and find a way to help this ballclub and grab W’s.”
The Ducks signed former Met Rodriguez, a six-time All-Star, on Monday, making him another high-profile signee — along with such former major-leaguers as Dontrelle Willis, Eric Gagne and Rich Hill — for the 19-year-old franchise. Rodriguez set the major-league record for saves in a season with 62 for the 2008 Angels.
While hoping to get back to the big leagues, he’s concentrating on staying healthy and showing that he can last through the rigors of another long season.
Rodriguez said he hurt his hamstring and groin in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He tried to play through it with the Tigers but had a 7.82 ERA in 28 games before being released in June.
“That’s why I’m here — because I tried to pitch through it and it didn’t work out,” he said. “I aggravated it more and more and I wasn’t getting the results that I wanted to . . . I couldn’t walk well, I couldn’t run, I couldn’t do anything.”
He’s healthy now, but after going to spring training with the Phillies, Rodriguez was released on March 24. He had the option of playing overseas or coming to Long Island.
“It was an easy decision,” he said. “I used to live 20 miles down the road [in Old Brookville]. I know the area and the city. At the end of the day, I just want to come here and compete. I will do it and take care of some business.”
Last season, three Ducks — Tim Melville, Henderson Alvarez and Quintin Berry — made it back to the majors.
“That’s something that’s not on my mind,” Rodriguez said. “My mind is to go day by day and enjoy every moment that I have here. What’s going to happen down the road, I don’t have control of. The only thing I control is what I do on the field and then, after that, if I get picked up by MLB, fine. Otherwise, I’m just going to continue to play baseball.”
Ducks score 27. The Ducks topped the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, 27-9, breaking the franchise record for runs scored. David Washington hit two home runs. Washington and Cody Puckett (six RBIs) hit back-to-back home runs as part of a seven-run second inning. Ducks starter Jair Jurrjens allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk in six innings with five strikeouts. Former Met Jordany Valdespin had four RBIs.