'A dream come true' as Rodríguez debuts with Giants

May 8th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Giants knew they’d have to be patient with pitching prospect Randy Rodríguez when they added him to the 40-man roster in November 2021.

Rodríguez was coming off a dominant 2021 campaign at Class A San Jose, but the Giants recognized that there was still plenty of development ahead for the electric right-hander, who spent the next two seasons making a gradual climb through the Minors.

The Giants’ investment in Rodríguez finally paid off last Thursday, when the 24-year-old Dominican earned his first big league callup after logging a 1.69 ERA over 10 2/3 innings in his first 10 relief appearances at Triple-A Sacramento this year.

Rodríguez, who is ranked the club’s No. 28 prospect, made his long-awaited Major League debut in Saturday’s 14-3 loss to the Phillies, giving up four runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks over 2 1/3 innings on a rainy night at Citizens Bank Park.

“I was really excited,” Rodríguez said afterward in Spanish. “I don’t even know how to put it into words. It was a dream come true.”

Rodríguez opened his outing with two scoreless frames, but the Giants needed him to go back out for a third inning after starter Keaton Winn managed to record only two outs against the Phillies’ star-studded lineup. A pair of errors by catcher Blake Sabol and third baseman Matt Chapman ultimately helped Philadelphia mount a four-run sixth against Rodríguez, who departed after throwing a season-high 48 pitches.

“Certainly his line didn’t indicate how well he pitched for us,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Based on what we saw in Spring Training and what we saw tonight, he was a completely different guy.”

The highlight of the night for Rodríguez came in the fifth, when he got two-time National League MVP Bryce Harper looking on a 99.5 mph fastball for his first career strikeout. It was the hardest pitch of the evening for Rodríguez, who admitted that he had a little bit of extra adrenaline going while facing the Phillies superstar.

“It crossed my mind when we first got here,” Rodríguez said. “‘What if Bryce Harper is my first strikeout?’ And then later, when I had him at two strikes, I thought, ‘Could be.’ So I concentrated and threw that pitch as well as I possibly could.”

Rodríguez has dealt with command issues in the past, but if he can continue to attack hitters like he did on Saturday, he should have a chance to establish himself as a key contributor in the Giants’ bullpen this season.

“Randy has matured a lot,” Sabol said. “He just seems very calm out there right now. He knows he has his stuff. Right now, it doesn’t seem like he reaches for more, which is great. He’s been throwing a lot of strikes. With the stuff that he has, if he’s throwing strikes, it’s a tough at-bat. Where he’s gotten in trouble in the past is getting behind in counts and now guys can just ambush the heater. But he’s been doing a really good job of first-pitch strikes and keeping the pressure on the hitter. He’s been having really short innings [in Triple-A Sacramento] and getting back in the dugout down there, so it made sense when he got the call up here.”

Here’s a roundup of other notable performances from the Giants’ four full-season Minor League affiliates:

Triple-A Sacramento: Carson Whisenhunt, the Giants’ No. 2 prospect, racked up a career-high 10 strikeouts over four scoreless innings against Tacoma on Saturday. The 23-year-old left-hander generated 18 swinging strikes -- 11 on his signature changeup -- while lowering his ERA to 5.40 over his first seven starts of the year for the River Cats.

Double-A Richmond: Right-hander Wil Jensen has been off to a hot start with the Flying Squirrels, logging a 0.93 ERA (two earned runs over 19 1/3 innings) with 24 strikeouts and a .197 opponents’ batting average over eight relief appearances.

High-A Eugene: Right-hander Dylan Cumming earned Northwest League Pitcher of the Month honors for April after going 1-0 with a 0.50 ERA and 24 strikeouts over 18 innings in his first five appearances (four starts) for the Emeralds.

Single-A San Jose: Will Bednar, the Giants’ 2021 first-round Draft pick, tossed two scoreless innings in a rehab appearance with San Jose on Tuesday. It was the first time the 23-year-old right-hander had pitched in a game since June 2023, as he missed most of last season due to injury.