DENVER -- Dereck Rodríguez loves Coors Field.
“It’s weird that I’m saying it,” Rodriguez said after holding the Rockies to a run on four hits over five innings in San Francisco’s 2-1 victory in the second game of a doubleheader Monday night. “But I actually feel comfortable throwing here. I like the mound, I like the way it feels. For me, that’s a big thing. If you’re comfortable with the mound, you’ll be fine. It doesn’t matter where you pitch.”
For any pitcher to say he feels comfortable at Coors Field, particularly in 2019, when the park has played even livelier than it has in past years, is quite a statement. Especially when said pitcher was just called up from Triple-A to start a game that was preceded hours earlier by a record-setting 19-2 Giants victory in Game 1.
But this is Rodriguez, a 27-year-old right-hander who was sensational as a rookie last season, posting a 2.81 ERA in 21 appearances (19 starts) before struggling to a 5.27 ERA for 2019 entering Monday night’s start.
He’s been down to Triple-A Sacramento and back twice this season, including his most recent stint, which was meant for him to get stretched out with an eye toward Monday’s doubleheader after he had been pitching out of the bullpen upon his return from the first trip to Sacramento in May.
If there was one thing abundantly clear as he answered questions after his outing Monday, it was that Rodriguez is determined to reclaim his rotation spot should the opportunity arise.
With the Giants red-hot, having won 10 of their last 13 games and jumping into the thick of the National League Wild Card race, there’s no better time for Rodriguez to find his 2018 form, especially since Madison Bumgarner may not be in a Giants uniform when the dust settles from the July 31 Trade Deadline.
“What a job he did,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Rodriguez. “He could’ve come out of it with no runs, that’s as far as he’s gone from his previous starts. He had all four of his pitches, a good mix going, good command. He had just great focus out there.”
When saying Rodriguez could’ve had a scoreless outing, Bochy was referring to Garrett Hampson’s fifth-inning RBI double over right fielder Austin Slater’s head that, according to Statcast, had a catch probability of 65 percent.
In all, Rodriguez yielded four hits, walked one and struck out six over 66 pitches with his father, Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez, watching from the stands.
Despite the context in which Rodriguez was pitching -- trying to prove he has a key role to play for the Giants down the stretch, with his dad looking on in the ballpark in which he made his Major League debut, this was just another start as far as he was concerned.
“He’s just another person watching,” Rodriguez said of Ivan. “And did you see the shirt he had on? It was purple [the Rockies’ main color].”
When Bochy went to his bullpen for the sixth inning, Rodriguez was somewhat surprised given the way he was pitching. But he understood his manager’s reasoning.
“He hadn’t gone five innings [for Sacramento] yet, although his pitch count was good,” Bochy said. “But we had the bullpen set up -- they got a little break yesterday [and Game 1 starter Jeff Samardzija went 6 2/3 innings earlier Monday].”
With Monday night’s strong return under his belt and the Giants on a run that may force president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi to rethink San Francisco’s Trade Deadline strategy, Rodriguez feels very comfortable sliding into a playoff race.
“I wasn’t here for those two weeks that they were on a roll,” Rodriguez said. “But I feel like I was here the whole time.”