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New closer Fernando Rodney likes Twins' chances in 2018

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Fernando Rodney (56) reacts after the final out against the Kansas City Royals during the ninth inning at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on Oct. 1, 2017. Peter G. Aiken / USA TODAY Sports

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — When Fernando Rodney visited Target Field with the Arizona Diamondbacks last August, the veteran closer made sure to chat with Twins pitcher/marvel Bartolo Colon.

Rodney, four years younger than his Dominican Republic countryman, had a question for Colon.

"I asked him, 'Hey, how long are you going to be here?' I look young in front of you," Rodney said with a laugh during a teleconference on Friday, Dec. 15. "He said, 'I don't know, Rodney. I feel good. I think I know how to pitch. I know how to get outs.'"

The same can be said of Rodney, who turns 41 in March and signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal plus an option year with the Twins. With incentives, the deal could be worth up to $6 million, according to a person with direct knowledge. The terms are identical on the team option.

"My decision is different (than Colon's)," Rodney said. "My arm feels good. I feel like I'm 29 today, and we've got a good chance in the division this year."

Rodney said he also had offers from the Texas Rangers, New York Mets and Detroit Tigers. He earned 39 saves with the Diamondbacks last year and still has a mid-90s fastball to go with a power changeup.

After meeting with Twins manager Paul Molitor and general manager Thad Levine at this week's winter meetings, Rodney researched the American League Central.

"We have a good chance because that division this year is not going to be too strong," he said. "I think the only team we have to (worry about) is going to be Cleveland. If you see the other teams in that division, we got a lot of chance to go to the World Series."

Rodney, whose 300 career saves rank third among active relievers, played with Twins special assistant Torii Hunter and No. 1 starter Ervin Santana with the Los Angeles Angels in 2010-11. He also is friendly with young Twins players such as Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco as well as Eddie Rosario.

"I'm excited about the Twins team because they have a lot of young guys," Rodney said. "They have a good team, and these guys are in good position to win the World Series this year, and I have a chance to close the game. I wanted to be part of the team. I wanted to be with a winning team. I'm coming here to win. Winning — that's why I decided to come here."

As for his ability work around a career nine-inning walk rate of 4.4 while fanning a batter per inning, including 10.6 per nine innings last year, Rodney said he learned long ago to control his emotions.

"When I walk somebody, maybe two guys in a row, I try to calm down and feel like my blood is freezing to control the game," he said. "That's the way I use to get out of the inning."

A noted workout warrior whose routine includes hanging upside down from a bar to strengthen his core, Rodney is willing to embrace a mentoring role with the Twins.

"When I met Mr. Levine in Orlando, they told me I was the first guy they invited to talk because they were looking for a closer and they think I can help the guys in the bullpen, most importantly the young guys," Rodney said. "I try to get my body in good position in the offseason. I try to eat healthy. I think it's hard work for me to get my body like that, but the only way I feel comfortable is when I'm working out a lot in the offseason."

Briefly

The Twins have hired former big-league catcher and manager Joel Skinner as their Triple-A Rochester manager, according to a person with direct knowledge. Skinner, 56, replaces Mike Quade after three seasons in Rochester. Quade, who managed the Chicago Cubs previously, will serve as a roving outfield instructor.

Edgar Varela, formerly Latin American hitting coordinator for the Pittsburgh Pirates, has been hired as the Twins' new minor league field coordinator, according to a person with direct knowledge. Varela, 37, replaces Joel Lepel, who is moving to a senior adviser role after 12 seasons as field coordinator.

After being named AL manager of the year, Molitor received a congratulatory text from Ichiro Suzuki, whom Molitor coached for a season in Seattle. But he doesn't see a reunion in Minnesota. "He's looking for a job," Molitor said of the 44-year-old outfielder. "To be honest with you, given our outfield right now, I don't really see that. In the National League, at least you know he can pinch hit. I hope it works out. I know he wants to keep playing."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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