DETROIT -- Fernando Rodney saved 12 of Justin Verlander's 19 wins in 2009, Rodney's final year as a Tiger. In that sense, having Rodney on the mound in the ninth inning trying to close out one of Verlander's gems had to seem awfully familiar.
The sight of Rodney doing it in a different uniform, though, was completely different, both for him and Verlander.
When the Rays struck for four runs in the top of the ninth against Verlander on Wednesday, it set up Rodney for a bit of history. With Kyle Farnsworth out for the next four to six weeks while he deals with a strained right elbow, Rodney is the Rays' closer. And so, three years after he parted ways with Detroit as a free agent, he picked up his first save at Comerica Park since that '09 season.
Rodney took the mound to a chorus of boos from the crowd of 28,180.
"It's the fans, man," Rodney said. "The fans change minds some days if they don't feel great with what happened. Maybe they get mad with what happened to Verlander."
It was mildly surprising, but it might have been fitting.
"I have the utmost respect for Fernando Rodney," manager Jim Leyland said. "I thought he did a terrific job. I thought he was a real warrior here. I don't think Fernando Rodney ever got the credit he deserved in Detroit."
How much respect does Leyland have for Rodney? Leyland said the Tigers were "quietly interested" in Rodney when he was a free agent again this winter. Presumably, that interest was for the relief role that they eventually filled with Octavio Dotel.
Rodney signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Rays in January for the chance to win.
If the Tigers are interested when Rodney hits the market again next winter, however, Rodney wouldn't rule it out. He still considers Leyland a good friend.
"This is my first team to give me the opportunity to play baseball," Rodney said. "You never say no. Just keep playing. You never know."