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02/18/11 2:17 PM EST
Oliver, Rhodes not giving in to age
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have two left-handed setup relievers with 37 years of Major League experience between them.
One wants to keep pitching. The other didn't sound too sure on Friday morning.
Arthur Rhodes wants to catch Jesse Orosco. Darren Oliver keeps thinking about staying home with his wife and two sons, especially since he was feeling his age on Friday in the Rangers clubhouse.
So this might be the final season for Oliver, 40, who is entering his 18th season and was the seventh oldest player in the American League last season. Or not.
"I don't know if I want to keep playing ... not the way I felt this morning," Oliver said. "It's a struggle every day. It usually takes me a week to 10 days to feel normal. We'll see how it goes. I'm taking it day by day. I'm not even thinking about next year. I'm just trying to make it through the day."
His sons Brock, 10, and Maxwell, 8, are foremost on his mind. Oliver and his wife Melissa make their home in Colleyville, Texas, and that was a big reason why he signed with the Rangers last year after three seasons with the Angels.
"I want to pitch as long as I can but there comes a time when you want to be at home," Oliver said. "The boys are hard-headed, when daddy's not home it's tough."
From a performance standpoint, there is little reason for Oliver to think about retirement. He was 1-2 with a 2.48 ERA in 64 games pitched last season. He did have a 1.36 ERA before the All-Star break and a 4.50 ERA afterward. But he also had a 2.08 ERA in September. In the playoffs, he allowed five runs in 9 1/3 innings but struck out 10 and opponents were just 7-for-35 (.200) off him.
"I was able to stay healthy all year, that's always the key," Oliver said. "I felt pretty good physically. There were times I got tired but overall I felt good. I might not have been as crisp at the beginning but once you get to the postseason, everything else takes over. When the crowd gets behind you, I can reach back for that half mile per hour, 89 instead of 88."
The Rangers relied heavily on Oliver last year as their left-handed setup reliever. Signing Rhodes will help ease his workload.
Rhodes, 41, signed a one-year deal with an option for 2012. If he pitches 62 games this season and is not on the disabled list at the end of the year, the option is automatically picked up.
Rhodes enters the season with 849 career appearances, 34th most in Major League history. If he does get 62 appearances this season, he would move past Eddie Guardado and into 21st place while becoming the 23rd pitcher in Major League history with 900 career games pitched.
The goal is Orosco, who pitched in 1,252 games before finally calling it quits at age 46 back in 2003.
"I'm trying to catch him," Rhodes said. "I told him a few years ago that I was going to try and pass him. I'm going to try and pitch until my arm falls off."
It will take him 6-7 years to do it but, like Oliver, he's still pitching effectively. He was an All-Star for the Reds last year and is 9-6 with a 2.32 ERA over the past three seasons. Opponents hit .204 off him.
He is also a different pitcher than Orosco, who was a sidearming left-hander who spent the second half of his career as a situational left-hander. Over his final nine seasons, Orosco pitched 323 innings over 498 games.
"That's not me," Rhodes said. "I'm a one-inning guy, possibly two innings. One inning is good if it's the eighth inning. Then I can give it to the closer."
More importantly, he is still a power pitcher. His 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings is the sixth best ratio among active pitchers and 11th all-time among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings.
"I'm going to pitch the way I have been pitching," Rhodes said. "I'm a little bit of a power guy. Not the way I was back in the old days but I can still get guys out."