DETROIT -- Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez joined an elite group Tuesday night, recording his 400th career save in the Tigers' 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, becoming only the sixth pitcher in MLB history to accomplish such a feat.
It was a milestone that Rodriguez, 34, could have never imagined when he broke into the big leagues as an Angels prospect back in 2002.
"Never," he said. "When I came here to the States to the big leagues, I was just a kid with a lot of dreams, but [it] never, not even crossed my mind. One thing I want to make clear: I don't play for numbers. I play this game because I love it. I've got it in my veins, and that's the only thing that, honestly, I know how to do well. It had nothing to do with records or anything like that."
Rodriguez, who was wearing custom shoes decorated with the number "400" and the Venezuelan flag after the game, sealed the ninth inning for his 14th consecutive save of the season. He joined Mariano Rivera (652), Trevor Hoffman (601), Lee Smith (478), Billy Wagner (422) and John Franco (424) as the only pitchers with 400 saves.
What did it take to get there for Rodriguez?
"We could spend an entire night going through it," he said. "That's a lot of sacrifice that I have made, obviously, for my entire career, for my entire family, my wife, kids. Not spending time with them. We could go on and on on and on, but all the hard work paid off. So I've just got to continue like that, and hopefully one of [my kids] follows in my steps, and they can get it done, too."
After the game, Rodriguez, whom the Tigers acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers this offseason, had a tough time recalling how exactly he reacted when he recorded the final out Tuesday.
"I don't know if I cried, screamed, laughed," he said. "A lot of things going through my mind in the moment. And I'm still trying to soak it in, enjoy [it]."
Tigers ace Justin Verlander called the moment "very special."
"I've unfortunately seen a lot of those saves on the other side of the dugout, so it's nice to see him shutting down games for us," Verlander said. "What a special moment. He's been a great closer for a long time. Four hundred's a lot of saves, and congratulations to him."
Rodriguez, who had his young son with him to celebrate after the game, said his mom was calling him about the shoes, so they might go to her.
"I don't know if my mom wants [them]," Rodriguez said. "She's going to get something, for sure."
One thing Rodriguez is sure about: This is not the end of the line for him. He plans to keep on racking up those saves.
"I'm not planning to stop, either," he said. "I'm going to continue to keep working hard, keep collecting [saves], take a look back pretty much when the desire to pretty much hang my spikes up [hits]."