Rodriguez shakes off wildness in gutsy effort
BOSTON -- Exactly one year before Friday night, the Red Sox acquired a left-handed pitching prospect from the Orioles named Eduardo Rodriguez -- a move that, at the time, was somewhat lost in the shuffle of 2014's frenzied roster purge.
In contrast, this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline held little change for the Sox by way of addition or subtraction, with the team instead opting to build off its current foundation of young talent. And that certainly includes Rodriguez, who pitched solidly in a 7-5 win over the Rays at Fenway Park.
Rodriguez overcame some early wildness to allow three runs on six hits over five innings, but he needed a career-high 110 pitches to do so. The 22-year-old only threw 58 percent of his pitches for strikes, was 10-for-27 on first-strike pitches and issued four walks (also a career high).
But manager John Farrell remained impressed, again praising his rookie starter for the ability to limit damage despite his troubles throwing strikes.
"When he's not had his best command, such as tonight, he's still got premium stuff to get guys out, even in fastball counts," Farrell said. "He was behind in the count a lot tonight. When he got back in the strike zone, he wasn't down the middle of the plate. Like I said, he found a way to get through it. He battled -- 110 pitches through five innings is an extreme amount. He held his velocity through the entire outing for the five innings, but again, was able to get some key outs.
"The strikeout to end the fifth was probably as good a pitch as he's thrown all night."
The at-bat Farrell was referencing saw Rays catcher Curt Casali swing and miss at a deceptive changeup that painted the outside edge of the strike zone.
Though known for an electric mid-90s fastball, Rodriguez turned to his changeup to great effect on Friday after struggling to command his best pitch in those first few innings. According to Brooks Baseball, he threw 25 changeups and induced whiffs on 10 of them.
"Today, with the fastball command, I missed a lot of spots early," Rodriguez said. "With my body, tried to do too much with the fastball. Tried to get as deep as I could get in the game with the changeup, with my secondary pitch."
Much more important than Rodriguez's latest performance, however, is the whole package of his rookie season. Though his 4.34 ERA through 12 starts is not eye-popping, that number has been skewed by three especially rough outings. In the other nine, including Friday's, he has held opposing lineups to three runs or fewer.
Between this season's baptism by fire and the potential he has shown for future ones, Rodriguez has perhaps already outstripped what the Red Sox first hoped he might become last year. At the least, Friday served as another reminder that he possesses the tools to become a dominant starter for Boston down the road.
"He's going to pitch off his fastball, we know that," Farrell said. "And he was able to fight back in the counts just enough to keep an inning from unraveling on him. It's a pitch he trusts -- even when he's in a disadvantaged count -- and because of that trust and conviction in it, he's able to get some mishits."