Mystery solved: Twins reliever Rodney left Sunday's game early to become US citizen

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When manager Paul Molitor relieved Fernando Romero in the fifth inning Sunday with runners on second and third, he chose an unexpected pitcher: Closer Fernando Rodney, who had not appeared before the sixth inning since 2005.

It felt like an extreme move, to use his best pitcher in a critical situation, or perhaps a chance to showcase the 41-year-old for scouts from teams considering a trade.

And the move was brilliant: Rodney threw a 95-mph fastball, struck out Carlos Gomez on an 83-mph changeup, and ended the inning on a harmless grounder.

Molitor had a confession after the game, however. “To be honest with you, it wasn’t about (strategy). He needs to be in Miami for an immigration hearing (Monday) morning” that he couldn’t reschedule, the manager said.

So Rodney had to leave by 3:30 to catch a flight.

In fact, Rodney reported via Instagram that he became a U.S. citizen on Monday:

“After 19 years in this wonderful country today I am blessed to say that I am an official US Citizen. Today I fly the American Flag but in my heart always hold my Dominican Flag. I want to thank all those who have been with me throughout the process and especially thank the @twins organizations for allowing me to catch my flight. Big thanks to the @tigers who made this dream possible 19 years ago.”

“It worked out pretty well because he got a couple of really big outs,” Molitor said.

Romero, who gave up 10 hits and four runs, was sent back to Class AAA Rochester after the game.

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