SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It was the good old days all over again for Dereck Rodríguez, who returned on Sunday to the spot that helped solidify his future with the Giants last spring.
Rodriguez pitched three innings of one-run ball against the Rockies at Salt River Fields, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out two, with batterymate Buster Posey behind the plate in the Giants' 9-3 loss.
A year ago, Rodriguez started at the same field in a night game against the D-backs, throwing three shutout innings in a 14-0 win over Arizona. Rodriguez allowed three hits and a walk while striking out two against a close approximation of the D-backs' Opening Day lineup.
“I was talking to Buster about that,” Rodriguez said after finishing his outing on Sunday. “It’s a good place to pitch. I feel like that’s where I really got put on the map last year -- it was after that start here. So coming back here, it’s a little different during the day, and a different team. But it was fun.”
Rodriguez didn’t break camp with the Giants when the season started last March, but he made his Major League debut on May 29 in Colorado, throwing 3 1/3 innings of relief against the Rockies and allowing one run while striking out four. He started 19 of his remaining 20 appearances, becoming a stalwart in the rotation and finishing his rookie season at 6-4 with a 2.81 ERA.
Rodriguez found himself up against another "A" team Sunday, with the Rockies fielding a lineup likely to include at least six of their Opening Day starters -- potentially as many as eight.
“They had their dudes in there,” Rodriguez said. “I like going out there and seeing their guys. Seeing Charlie [Blackmon] leading off and Nolan [Arenado] and [Trevor] Story and all those guys, knowing that we’re going to see them a bunch during the year. Just going out there and then seeing them in the lineup gives you that little bit of competition. You just want to go out there and do good.”
In the first inning, the middle of the Rockies' lineup got the best of Rodriguez. After retiring Blackmon and Arenado, the righty gave up a double to right to Daniel Murphy, walked Story, and then watched Ian Desmond drop an RBI single into left for the lone run on Rodriguez’s line. After walking the following batter, Mark Reynolds, Rodriguez retired in order the remaining seven batters he faced over the next 2 1/3 innings.
“I settled down,” Rodriguez said. “I felt like in the first inning I was rushing a little bit. Second inning, I felt good. Just went out there attacking the zone. That was the only adjustment.”
Rodriguez's fastball spent most of 2018 in the low 90s, but the Salt River Fields radar gun clocked him at 94 on Sunday, indicating an uptick in velocity as he prepares for his sophomore season.
“I feel like I got the arm speed,” Rodriguez said. “The arm feels great. As camp keeps going, I know I’m going to just keep getting stronger.”
It was Posey’s second Cactus League game of the spring, as well, and Rodriguez’s first chance to throw to him in a game situation since Aug. 24, when Rodriguez pitched six innings of two-run ball. That was Posey’s final game of the season before being shut down for hip surgery.
“I had [pitched to Posey this spring] in live BP,” Rodriguez said. “Having him catch me today was good. It was like old times. It feels good to have him back in the rhythm of things, calling pitches.”