And so Johnson had to pick his closer: Rodriguez or Lidge? A lightning arm or a time-tested slider? Youth or experience? Through the bullpen gates jogged Rodriguez.
“I wanted to really test Henry,” Johnson said. “I thought it was going to be a really good test. Henry has done such a great job, so I threw the cookie his way. And he handled it.”
Rodriguez closed his fourth save of the season without allowing a run. He walked two Marlins, but with the stuff he had, he probably would have needed to walk two more in order for the Marlins to score. He threw seven 100-mph fastballs and one that came in at 101. (The 101-mph heater was to John Buck, still the only hitter to homer off Rodriguez since Rodriguez joined the Nationals.)
Johnson has chosen Rodriguez twice in a row since Lidge’s tight-rope save Tuesday night against the Astros. He said match-ups, not just which pitcher is fresher, will sometimes dictate which closer he chooses. Both are right-handers, but Rodriguez’s fastball-changeup approach works better against lefties than Lidge’s fastball-slider.
“I’m really proud of Henry,” Johnson said. “I feel like Henry has handled everything really well. He made a lot of progress. He really earned the right to close some games last year, and certainly this spring. He’s certainly qualified to be a bonafide closer. Lidge falls in that same category when he’s healthy. It’s an interesting scenario.”