Francisco Rodriguez-"K-Rod": Former Mets Relief Pitcher (2009 - 2011)

Francisco Jose Rodriguez was born on January 7th, 1982, in Caracas, Distrito Federal, Venezuela. The six-foot right hander was signed out of high school as an amateur free agent in 1998 by the Anaheim Angels.

Francisco would become known either by the nickname K-Rod or "Frankie" by the time he got to the big leagues.

He was originally a starter in the minors but by 2002 he found his niche as a closer saving 15 games before getting called up to the Angels staff in September. He appeared in just five games but impressed enough to see action in the ALDS.

2002 Post Season: Francisco appeared in three games pitching 5.2 innings & although he allowed two runs he struck out eight members of the AL New York squad. He earned the wins in Game #2 in New York & Game #4 in California.

2002 ALCS: In the ALCS he blew the Minnesota Twins away as well striking out seven batters in four innings earning two more victories going 2-0.

2002 World Series: In the World Series he earned the win in Game #2 at home against the San Francisco Giants pitching the 7th inning. In Game #4 he earned his first career loss allowing an 8th inning RBI single to David Bell.

Overall, in the World Series he struck out 13 batters in 8.2 innings allowing three runs on six hits in four appearances. 

In just two months in the big leagues the goggled man with the big glasses, K-Rod was a national star, had won a World Series, went 5-1 in the post season, striking out 28 batters in 18 innings pitched & was penciled in as the closer of the future.

In 2003 he was the Angels set up man for Troy Percival, going 8-3 with seven holds, two saves & a 3.03 ERA in 59 appearances. In 2004 he was credited with 27 holds posting a 1.82 ERA going 4-1 with 12 saves as he filled in for Percival when he was injured. It was clear that K-Rod was to be the team's new closer & Percival was going to be let go to free agency.

The Angels finished first again making the post season, but this time lost in the ALDS to the
eventual World Champion Boston Red Sox. In that series K-Rod took two losses Games 3 & Games #4.

Over the next two seasons K-Rod established himself as the league's best closer, leading the AL in saves both seasons with 45 & 47 saves respectively. He made over 65 appearances both seasons, made the All Star team & was close to winning the Cy Young Awards as well. Although he saved forty or more games four straight seasons it was his 2008 year that really stands out.

That season he established a new MLB recorded for saves with 62. On September 10th he clinched the AL West by earning save #56 against the AL New York club. The next day he tied Bobby Thigpen's single season save mark of 57 saves set in 1990. 

In 76 appearances (first in the AL) he finished 69 games (first in the AL) posted a 2.24 ERA going 1-2 with 77 strike outs in 68 innings pitched.

His big season had come in his contract year. The reliever went to sign a big contract with the New York Mets. 

Mets Career: He arrived in New York with a lot of hype, already a big star coming to the big City to a team that had high expectations. The Mets had lost out on the playoffs the last day of the season the previous two years. 

2009: K-Rod replaced Billy Wagner as the teams closer & he debuted on Opening Day earning a save at Cincinnati against the Reds.

He notched two saves there & entered the Mets home Opener at the new Citi field finishing the loss earning no decision. He had a great May saving ten games while earning a win and lowering his ERA under one to 0.73. In the middle of June he blew his first two saves, they came on the road in interleague play one against the cross-town rivals & then one in Baltimore a few days later.

The blown save came when second baseman Luis Castillo dropped an easy fly ball that was supposed to end the game. After the game a no named AL NY team pitched called Brian Brunley made negative comments about Rodriguez. 

K-Rod responded to the press saying "somebody like that, it doesn't bother me, he better keep his mouth shut and do his job, not worry about somebody else. I don't even know who the guy is. I'm not going to waste my time with that guy.

Instead of sending messages through the paper, next time when you see me at Citi Field, come up to me and say it to my face." The next day K-Rod went after him at batting practice, but the teammates separated the two. Rodriguez was selected to the NL All Star team & pitched a scoreless 9th inning representing the Mets in St. Louis.

As the team suffered injuries & the season fell apart, Frankie was a constant saving 35 games in 41 opportunities posting a 3.71 ERA, striking out 73 batters in 68 innings pitched while leading the league in games finished (66).

It was a good year but after the incredible year he had the previous season it was a drop off of almost half the saves. That season he also became the first reliver since Lee Smith (1995) to serve up to walk off grand slams in the same season, one coming against the San Diego Padres & the other against the Washington Nationals.

In 2010 he was back as the teams closer & didn't earn a save until two weeks into the season. His best month was June when he saves nine games & blew just one. There was some concern with the number of walks he was giving up as well as the number of runs, but overall, he blew just five saves all year until mid-August.

Drama- Assault & Arrested: On August 11th he bottomed out as drama & personal issues began to ruin his career. He was arrested at Citi Field after assaulting his girlfriend's father who had allegedly made offending remarks about K-Rods mother. He was released & ordered to stay away from the girlfriend & the father. During the incident he injured his thumb requiring season ending surgery.

The drama received a lot of bad press to organization already in turmoil. "Ownership and the organization are very disappointed in Francisco's inappropriate behavior, and we take the matter very seriously," team chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said.

A month later he was back in court after violating the order of protection after sending numerous text messages. The Mets placed him on the disqualified list, & intended not to pay him until he was able to perform his pitching duties once again.

K-Rod returned in 2011 but it was clear his days were numbered with the Mets.

In the second game of the season he allowed a run to the Florida Marlins in the bottom of the 9th inning while blowing a save but getting credit for a win when David Wright & Willie Harris bailed him out with RBI hits.

On April 9th he gained his first save & then recorded 15 straight through the end of May when he took his first loss coming against the Philadelphia Phillies.

In June he saved five games reaching the 20 save mark before July, but he also blew two saves & earned a loss in the month as well. He allowed three runs to the Braves at Citi Field on June 3rd & then two runs in Atlanta two weeks later.

On July 8th in San Francisco K-Rod earned his last save as a New York Met, right after the All-Star break, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for players to be named later (Danny Herrera & Adrian Rosario). 

After 42 Mets games he was 2-2 with 23 saves 46 strike outs in 44 innings while posting a 3.16 ERA.

Post Mets Career: In Milwaukee he went 4-0 as a setup man to John Axford, getting to another post season reaching the NLCS.

2011 Post Season: In the NLDS Francisco saw action in two games against the Arizona D-backs. In the NLCS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals he pitched mid relief in three games.
After the post season he was granted free agency but resigned with Milwaukee for another season.

In 2012 he served as setup man to John Axford, getting credit for 32 holds going 2-7 with a 4.38 ERA. K-Rod struck out 72 batters in 72 innings pitched over 78 appearances.

Another Domestic Violence Charge: In Wisconsin in September of 2012, he was charged kicking the mother of his child. The charges were dropped, when the victim as well as a witness, who was their housekeeper returned to Venezuela not responding to the District Attorney's case.

He began 2013 with the Brewers saving ten games, going 1-1 with a 1.09 ERA in 25 games. Then on July 23rd he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Nick Delmonico. He went 2-1 in 23 games posting a 4.50 ERA with no saves. After the season he was let go to free agency but surprisingly signed again with the Milwaukee Brewers. 

That off season he was a victim of political unrest in his native Venezuela. He was forced to remain there as a wave of violent political protest took place, not allowing him to return until March 1st. He then stepped on a cactus injuring his foot, not allowing him to pitch again until the end of April.

In 2014, Francisco rebounded to have a fantastic season, making the All-Star team, coming in third in the NL in saves (44) & lead the league in games finished with 66. He made 69 overall appearances, going 5-5 with a 3.04 ERA. He struck out 73 batters walking just 18 in 68 innings pitched. 

In 2015 his success continued, as he made yet another All-Star team, saved 38 more games (5th in the NL), finishing up 55 games (4th in the NL). He went 1-3 with 62 strike outs & 11 walks in 57 innings in 60 games.

In November 2015 he was traded to the Detroit Tigers. That off season he contracted the Zika virus in his native, Venezuela. It took him two months to recover & get well.

In 2016 he had a few more milestones, first on May 24th he recorded his 400th career save. Soon he was passing Dennis Eckersley & then former Mets relievers; Billy Wagner & Jon Franco getting up to fourth on the All Time save list.

He saves 44 games overall (2nd in the AL) & finished 55 (third best). He was 3-4 with a 3.24 ERA striking out 52 walking 21 in 58 innings with 61 appearances.

In 2017 Justin Wilson became the main Tigers closer on the fifth-place team. K-Rod recorded seven saves going 2-5 with a 7.28 ERA in 28 appearances. At age 35 his days were behind him & he retired at the end of the season.

Retirement: In 2018 he pitched for the Long Island Ducks in the Independant League. In 2019 he pitched in the Mexican League.

Career Stats: In his sixteen-year career he was 52-52 with 437 saves (4th all time). 

He has 677 games finished (9th all time) posting a 2.86 ERA with 1142 strike outs, 389 walks in 976 innings pitched over 948 appearances (21st all time).


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