DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Francisco Rodriguez drove himself to Dunedin Stadium on Friday, but he had trouble finding the entrance to the parking lot.He had never been to Dunedin before.Rodriguez, 36, then struggled to find his location early in the fifth inning of a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays in
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Francisco Rodriguez drove himself to Dunedin Stadium on Friday, but he had trouble finding the entrance to the parking lot.
He had never been to Dunedin before.
Rodriguez, 36, then struggled to find his location early in the fifth inning of a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays in the Phillies' Grapefruit League opener. He allowed one hit, one walk and struck out one in one scoreless inning. He threw 22 pitches (11 strikes) with a fastball that showed 87-89 mph on the ballpark radar gun. Rodriguez is in camp as a non-roster invitee, hoping to resurrect his career after the Tigers and Nationals released him last season.
"I felt kind of lost the first couple of batters," he said. "For some reason, even with all the experience I have, it's not the same throwing so many bullpens and live BPs. Once you get in the game, it's different."
Rodriguez has 437 career saves in 948 career appearances, but he enters camp as a dark horse to make the team. He could have just walked away, but he said he still wants to compete.
"I love the game," he said. "I don't think I have to prove anything. I don't think I went to Walmart and bought 900 appearances and 437 saves. I did that with a lot of pride and hard work. This is the only thing I know how to do, play baseball. God gave me the opportunity to throw a baseball, and I'm going to continue to do it."
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The skills matrix
Phillies assistant pitching coach Chris Young could not be missed Friday. He could be seen positioning outfielders from the top of the dugout throughout the game.
Wait, the assistant pitching coach is positioning the outfielders?
"We started with a skills matrix," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said about his coaching staff. "What are the responsibilities that need to be covered in a Major League dugout? There's a big list of them. Then, who is best at tackling this responsibility? We got to the positioning of outfielders and [Young] was the logical fit for us, partially because of his advance-scouting background and partially because he's really good at digging into data. And he's a big target. It doesn't have to be an outfield guy to position outfielders. It doesn't take the outfield experience to say, 'Oh, you should be standing on the X.' We're thinking about that a bit unconventionally."
Young, 36, joined the Phillies after spending the past three years with the Houston Astros, first as a pro scout from 2015-16 and most recently as MLB scouting supervisor during the 2017 season. Prior to his three seasons with the Astros, Young was a pro scout for the San Diego Padres for five seasons from 2010-14.
"We are going to position our defenders optimally," Kapler said. "It's one of those things we can control. Is it value at the margins? We know it's one of the things within our control that doesn't fall into that category of athleticism. Yeah, it's value at the margins. No question."
Honoring Stoneman Douglas High School
Every team in baseball wore the caps of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School baseball team to honor the 17 people killed in the shooting last week. Teams had the option of wearing the caps not only before the game, but during the game. The Phillies and Blue Jays both did.
"We were told we would wear them for BP," Kapler said. "We could make the choice about if we would wear them during the game. I'm not sure if that turned into something mandatory. Either way, it was a no-brainer. Given an opportunity to honor victims and families of a pretty upsetting tragedy, I think we're all going to jump on that opportunity."
Up next: Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin starts against the Orioles on Saturday afternoon at 1:05 ET at Spectrum Field. It is the Phillies' first home game of the spring. Eflin is fighting for a job in the Phillies' rotation, so it is important he get off on the right foot. Watch the game live on MLB.TV.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.