MILWAUKEE -- By this time last year, Francisco Rodriguez knew his days with the Mets were numbered. The team was scuffling, and he was a free agent-to-be drawing a large salary from a franchise looking to cut costs. Rodriguez's hunch came true when he was traded to the Brewers the night of the All-Star Game, and he is back in Milwaukee this year after accepting arbitration. But once again Rodriguez pitches for a team that is scuffling, and once again he is a free agent-to-be drawing a large salary from a franchise that pushed its payroll to new heights this season. And if the Brewers don't start winning games in bunches, they may opt to cut salary and add prospects. Rodriguez is holding out hope that he'll finish the season in a Brewers uniform.
"We're still there," Rodriguez said. "We haven't played our game yet at the level we're supposed to. We're not too far away, but obviously, we have to get back to .500. That's the main thing. After that, we'll see what's going to happen." Last year was different. "There were so many rumors out, and I had a feeling," Rodriguez said. "Big contract, everything that had happened in the past. I was sure [I would be traded], but not sure. I was insecure. The rumors even started in Spring Training, all the way through the first half of the season." The deal that sent Rodriguez to Milwaukee went down early in the trading period, more than two weeks before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Rodriguez re-signed with the Brewers for $8 million after surprising them in December by accepting an arbitration offer. Such one-year deals do not include any no-trade protection. When a player has some no-trade rights, Rodriguez said, "You feel like you have some control of your future right there. In this case, not. But I just have to do my job in the field and not worry about things I cannot control." Rodriguez was frustrated with his performance earlier this season, particularly after he absorbed a loss in San Diego on May 1. But in the first 12 outings after that loss, he allowed only two earned runs, struck out 12 batters versus three walks, and logged six holds.
He had a letdown on Thursday, when Cubs pinch-hitter Bryan LaHair hit a go-ahead two-run homer off him in the eighth inning, but the Brewers came back to win in the 10th, 4-3."I've pitched a lot better," Rodriguez said before his outing. "The first month was pretty rough for me, but my release point has been a little more consistent lately, and I'm pitching more. The more I pitch, the better I feel." Rodriguez remains stuck on 292 career saves, having logged his only one in a Brewers uniform back in April, as he is serving as a setup man for closer John Axford. Rodriguez would like to close at his next stop, but that is not his focus now. "I just want to be patient," he said. "Sooner or later, somebody is going to give me an opportunity."