Former Tigers closer plotting improbable MLB comeback in late 40s

Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox
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Fernando Rodney — best known for preemptively pulling out his bow and arrow celebration in a 2014 game against the Angels, only to get it thrown back in his face by Albert Pujols and Mike Trout one inning later — hasn't pitched in MLB since 2019. Over a 17-year career as a reliever and oftentimes a closer, Rodney pitched for 11 major league teams (eight in his last five seasons, including the 2019 Nationals). His MLB career seemed to be over after he was released by the Astros before seeing major league innings for them in 2020, but new reports say that he doesn't want to be done with MLB.

Rodney was signed by the Detroit Tigers as an amateur free agent all the way back in 1997, he made his MLB debut with the team in 2002, and he pitched in 179 games for Detroit over seven seasons. Sam Blum of The Athletic profiled Rodney (subscription required), turning 47 in March, who said that he wants to make an MLB comeback after a few years in the Mexican League, and to keep pitching until he's 50.

Former Detroit Tigers closer Fernando Rodney wants to make MLB comeback at 47

If he signs with a new team in free agency, Rich Hill (43, 44 by the time the season starts) will be MLB's oldest player. If Hill doesn't, the title will go to Justin Verlander (41 when the season starts). Players who stay in the game past their early 40s are rare, and those who go into their mid-to-late-40s are virtually unheard of. Rodney's chances of making a breakthrough into the majors again is highly unlikely, and he acknowledged that himself in Blum's article.

However, his drive is admirable, and his career stats reflect that just as much as his late-career ambitions to come back to MLB. In 2009, his last year with the Tigers, he appeared in 65 games (tied for a career high). A few seasons later, he racked up Cy Young and MVP votes, and earned his first All-Star appearance, with the Rays after pitching 74 2/3 innings for an almost impossible 0.60 ERA. His numbers were never that dominant again, but he managed to keep providing 60+ inning seasons, even as he was bounced from team to team from 2015-2019. He made his first All-Star team at age 35. Then he made two more. Who's to say he can't do what he puts his mind to?

Rodney probably won't make it back into the majors, and even if he does, it probably won't be for the Tigers. Even so, he should be easy for Tigers fans to root for and wish the best of luck to in his comeback.