Rodriguez flashing 'frontline' SP potential

April 23rd, 2021

Angels rookie reliever continues to turned heads with his impressive stuff and manager Joe Maddon said Thursday he now believes the right-hander has what it takes to eventually be moved into a starting-pitching role.

Rodriguez, 22, gave up one run and struck out four over 2 1/3 innings against the Rangers on Wednesday. He has a 3.48 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings in five appearances this season while being used in a multi-inning role. Rodriguez has done it with his four-pitch mix of a sinker, curveball, changeup and slider that has Maddon thinking he has the stuff to eventually be a starter again, like he was in the Minor Leagues before back injuries limited him to just 9 1/3 innings from 2018-20.

“The changeup really adds another layer to him,” Maddon said. “He’s a strike-thrower and he can get quick outs by challenging hitters with that fastball and force them to beat it into the ground. You can see him becoming a frontline starter. It gives me a lot to think about now that I’ve seen it.”

Rodriguez, though, remains likely to stay in relief this season, as it allows the Angels to monitor his innings and workload, especially with his injury history. There's a better chance he could be moved into a high-leverage one-inning role this season.

“I love him as a late-inning pitcher,” Maddon said. "It’s all possible. He’s shown a lot of versatility. You trust him and you trust his stuff will be there. He had the one hiccup against Toronto in Dunedin where his command was off, but he’s got that real high-energy delivery and it comes out hot. He knows where it’s going and the hitters don’t like him because they don’t see him very well.”

Rodriguez said he’s open to whatever the Angels want from him and is continuing to work on commanding all four pitches. His sinker has become his go-to pitch -- throwing it 62.3 percent of the time -- but he knows the other three offerings are important to his success going forward.

“It’s all been great,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve just been working on the same things over and over again every day to make sure we perfect it at some point. Every day I’m learning new things about myself and the hitters.”

Rendon, Lagares, Stassi on road trip
Third baseman Anthony Rendon (left groin strain), right fielder Juan Lagares (left calf strain) and catcher Max Stassi (sprained left thumb) all made the trip to Houston and are nearing reinstatement from the injured list.

Stassi appears likely to be activated first, as Lagares still needs to run at full strength for at least another day while Rendon continues to increase his workload of baseball activities. The trio could return during the Houston series.

Ward returns to action, on taxi squad
Outfielder Taylor Ward was among four players on the Angels' taxi squad, joining lefty Patrick Sandoval and right-handers Noé Ramirez and James Hoyt. Ward had missed time at the club’s alternate training site for undisclosed reasons, and he was not on the taxi squad for the club’s first road trip of the season. Ward, however, returned to action a few days ago and he could be called up at some point on the 10-game trip.

“I’ve heard that when he got back out there, he looked really sharp and really good,” Maddon said. “I was hearing good things even though he wasn’t out there. We think a lot of him. I like him personally, too. We’ll get him out there soon among the regular group. He was great in camp.”