Fernando Rodney downplays contract talk

Rays' Fernando Rodney refutes the contract extension talk, but would be open to future discussions.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – For now, it appears there have been no talks about an extension for Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney. However, the right-hander would be open to such discussions at some point in the future.

Rodney, 35, on Wednesday refuted a quote attributed to him late last month in El Dia, a Dominican Republic newspaper, that said he was close to signing a two-year contract extension. He called it a miscommunication between him and the reporter, and he denied having knowledge of any potential negotiations between the Rays and Dan Lozano, his agent.

“Sometimes, people pull something they’re not supposed to do,” Rodney told FOXSportsFlorida.com. “They put it in the paper. … I understand that’s baseball. They were just trying to do their job. I know I didn’t say that.”

Rodney, slotted to make $2.5 million this season, is coming off a career year in which he recorded a team-high 48 saves in 74.2 innings. His 0.60 ERA was the lowest in major-league history with a minimum of 60 innings pitched, breaking former right-hander Dennis Eckersley’s mark of a 0.61 ERA in 73.1 innings set in 1990.

Given what he accomplished last season, Rodney could be considered a steal at his current salary. He made $1.7 million in the 2012 campaign, his first with the Rays after two with the Los Angeles Angels in which he had 17 saves. Before last summer, his best ERA with at least 60 innings pitched was the 3.52 mark he posted with the Detroit Tigers in 71.2 innings in 2006.

“Maybe this is a good idea – for me and the team too,” Rodney said of a possible extension in the future. “If they like it, it’s a good place to be, to play. There are good people here. If it happens, it happens. If not, I’m just going to play baseball.”

Added reliever Joel Peralta: “What he did last year hasn’t been done in the whole history of baseball. We’re just hoping that he can at least be close to that (again).”

Meanwhile, this spring will be busy for Rodney in more ways than one. He said he plans to throw for his home country, the Dominican Republic, in the upcoming World Baseball Classic that will be played March 2-19.

Peralta – a right-hander – also was named to the Dominican Republic squad, but said he’s uncertain about participating because he wants to avoid fatigue to his arm.

“It’s a good chance to represent your country where you come from and play for your friends and family,” Rodney said. “It’s very good. It’s exciting. … They asked me if I’m ready to represent my country. I said, ‘Yes’ after the decision. I’m going to be ready for that. It’s only one time. I’m doing it because we’ve got time to do it. … It’s a good time, good moment, good team and good people. Let’s do it.”

Rays manager Joe Maddon didn’t have any qualms about Rodney’s choice to take part in the event, which happens once every four years. He said he trusts the pitcher’s ability to read his body.

“I’m fine,” Maddon said. “Here’s a guy who knows himself. … The biggest concern there would be to be able to speak with the manager there or somebody that would not over-utilize him.”

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.

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