Baseball fans knew something was up.
Minnesota Twins pitcher Fernando Rodney entered Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays in the fifth inning. Rodney, a closer, usually shows up later in a game to finish it out.
Pitching that early in a game for the first time in 13 years, Rodney struck out a couple of Rays and then left. Was he injured? Was this part of some bold, new strategy by the Twins?
No, nothing that dramatic. Rodney, a native of the Dominican Republic, left the game in Minneapolis early to catch a flight to Miami so he could attend an immigration hearing Monday morning and become a US citizen.
In a social media post this week, Rodney proudly displayed his certificate and a US flag.
“After 19 years in this wonderful country today I am blessed to say that I am an official US Citizen,” Rodney wrote on Instagram, where he also thanked the Twins for letting him leave the game early to catch his flight.
Rodney, 41, has pitched for nine different teams during his 16 years in the majors.
Twins manager Paul Molitor confirmed that putting Rodney in the game during the fifth inning had nothing to do with strategy and everything to do with his immigration hearing.
“To be honest with you, it wasn’t about being overly strategic,” Molitor told MLB.com. “He had a flight that he had to catch and all that kind of stuff, so we had postponed it a couple of times, trying to get it a time that was more feasible. But it turned out (Monday) was the only day and so (we) got him in the game a little earlier. It worked out pretty well, because he got a couple of really big outs.”
Oh, by the way, the Twins came from behind to win, 11-7, thanks to a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning from second baseman Brian Dozier. So yes, it worked out pretty well for everybody – except maybe the Rays.