K-Rod realistic about struggles, status with Crew

K-Rod realistic about struggles, status with Crew

MILWAUKEE -- Francisco Rodriguez checked his ego at the clubhouse door for the start of the series with the Astros, a good thing considering what was to come in the first two games.

On Monday, amid a season full of struggles that includes six blown saves, Rodriguez -- an 11-year Major League veteran with 294 saves -- was asked to sit in the eighth inning when the game was on the line. On Tuesday he got to pitch, but with the Brewers blowing out the Astros, 10-1.

"I've put myself in those situations," Rodriguez said. "That's the bottom line. To be pointing fingers, I would have to point it right here."

He pointed to his chest.

"You know the funny thing I've been thinking about the last few days?" he said. "Last year, when [John Axford] or me or anybody else from the bullpen came in, people would say, 'It's over.' The last week, any time we were coming in, people were like, 'Oh, no.'"

He leaned back in his chair, turned away and covered his eyes for effect.

"We have to get back to where we were," he said. "Hopefully, the people don't give up on us. Stay with us, because we're going to bounce back."

Had he really seen fans at Miller Park shielding their eyes as he trotted to the mound?

"If you don't notice, you must be real blind," he said. "You have to be realistic, and I'm realistic. I don't live in dreams. When I stink, I will say right away that I stink."

On Tuesday, working with a nine-run lead against an Astros team that won all of three games in July, he did not stink. He worked a 1-2-3 inning that included two strikeouts, and declared afterward, "That's me right there."

On Monday, Rodriguez began warming up in the bullpen with the Brewers down, 3-0, in the seventh inning. Before the game, manager Ron Roenicke said that he wanted to put Rodriguez in a non-pressure situation after he'd blown two straight saves last week in Philadelphia, and it appeared that Roenicke had found the perfect spot.

Then the Brewers put together a four-run inning to take the lead, and Roenicke stuck to his original plan. Rodriguez took a seat on the bench, and Livan Hernandez went in to pitch in the eighth inning.

Could Rodriguez, who set the single-season record with 62 saves in 2008, ever remember such an occurrence?

"No," Rodriguez said. "But when you have your ERA at mid-five, and you have three blown saves and you have not even recorded a full inning in the last three outings, there's nothing you can say."

Although they made it interesting, Rodriguez's bullpen-mates were able to hold on for an 8-7 win, with Axford recording his 17th save.

Roenicke said on Tuesday afternoon that he wasn't sure how upset Rodriguez was about that decision.

"To be honest with you, I probably want him to be a little mad about it," Roenicke said. "When it's close and on the line, he wants to be out there, so I have no problem with that. But it's a tough decision. And to do that to him, believe me, that wasn't easy to do."

If things go according to plan, both Rodriguez and Axford will work their way back to high-leverage innings. Rodriguez is a free agent after the season, and a string of solid performances could conceivably convince a contender to call the Brewers about an August trade. Given that he is earning $8 million, Rodriguez would have a good chance to clear waivers if the Brewers have not already passed him through.

"Every single ballplayer alive struggles. It's part of it. But we have a great challenge ahead of us," Rodriguez said. "Two months left in the season to turn it around."