CHICAGO -- Francisco Rodriguez trotted from the bullpen Tuesday for career save No. 292, one that was nearly nine months in the making. He'd been promised the occasional save opportunity after the Brewers traded for him last July, but until this week, it just didn't happen. Rodriguez, a career closer, said he remains content in a setup role with the Brewers. "Definitely," Rodriguez said. "If it wasn't like that, trust me, I would not be here. It's nice when you've got the feeling that you can help a team win ballgames, and that's the mentality that I have."
He helped the Brewers beat the Cubs, 7-4, on Tuesday, when closer John Axford was off limits after throwing 53 pitches the previous two days. The Cubs had just cut their deficit to three runs and had a runner at first base with one out in the ninth inning, when Rodriguez entered and retired both Chicago hitters he faced, with a strikeout and a groundout. It was his first true save opportunity since July 8 of last season, four days before the Mets shipped Rodriguez's salary to Milwaukee on the night of the All-Star Game. "It had been a while," Rodriguez said after logging the save. But it was just business as usual. "I've been really, in the eighth inning when I'm setting up for 'Ax,' trying to have the same mentality," Rodriguez said. "Attack the hitter and try to put him away as quickly as possible. In that situation [Tuesday] night, that's what I did -- try to not give them any chance to get back into the game." Rodriguez applied this effort in Wednesday's 2-1 win over the Cubs as well. He worked around a pair of walks by striking out the side in the eighth inning, setting up Axford's 45th consecutive save.
Manager Ron Roenicke called having Rodriguez in reserve for the days Axford needs a break a "huge advantage for us." He did not always have a good fill-in for Axford last season."I know last year there were times right before we got Frankie that you mentioned something to [Takashi] Saito about it and he was like, 'No, I don't think I want to do that,'" said Roenicke. "To find guys that want to do it and feel comfortable doing it, that's good." Rodriguez was well aware that it was save No. 292 in his career. He never figured the march to 300 would be so long. "Eight more to go," he said. "Hopefully, I get that out of the way. That's a big milestone for me, but I'm not [going] to worry about that right now. Let's get some holds, get the ball to 'Ax' and keep winning."