Scioscia: K-Rod building HOF-worthy career

Scioscia: K-Rod building HOF-worthy career

ANAHEIM -- Francisco Rodriguez returned to Angel Stadium this week, playing in Anaheim for the first time since wearing an Angels uniform eight years ago.

He's still accumulating saves.

Rodriguez became the sixth member of the 400-saves club on May 24 and is only 34 years old. He could someday reach 500, a threshold crossed only by Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera, both of whom should eventually end up in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"This guy's not intimidated by anything on the mound," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Rodriguez. "It doesn't matter where he's pitching or who he's pitching against. That's translated into arguably a Hall of Fame-caliber career."

Rodriguez burst onto the scene as a skinny, undersized, 20-year-old flamethrower, coming up in the middle of September in 2002 and leading the Angels to an improbable World Series championship in October.

Over the next six years, Rodriguez posted a 2.38 ERA, struck out 11.6 batters per nine innings and compiled 208 saves for the Angels. He spent the next eight years with the Mets, Brewers, Orioles and Tigers, posting a 3.08 ERA, striking out 9.7 batters per nine innings and notching 192 saves.

Rodriguez's stuff "isn't quite what it was when it was with us," Scioscia said. "But he's maintained velocity with the changeup, his velocity plays up, and he still has that gunslinger mentality."

Rodriguez's average fastball velocity has gone from 95 mph in 2007 to 89 mph in 2016, his first season with the Tigers. But he's still getting outs, still closing out games. And Scioscia has him in that elite class of closers, along with Rivera and Hoffman and Lee Smith and John Franco.

"Absolutely," Scioscia said. "Absolutely."

Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.