Rodriguez strives for more Jekyll, less Hyde
Perfect into fourth, Red Sox lefty unravels when pitching from stretch
BOSTON -- Following his start on Wednesday night, Red Sox veteran Clay Buchholz opined about how quickly one inning can change the entire makeup of a pitcher's outing.
"It blows up, and that's the life we live," Buchholz said.
On Thursday, Buchholz found himself dispensing similar advice to rookie Eduardo Rodriguez, whose sudden demise in Thursday's rubber match with the Orioles at Fenway Park sunk Boston to an 8-6 loss. The left-hander had five strikeouts through three perfect innings before Baltimore tagged him for six runs on seven consecutive hits in the fourth, chasing Rodriguez after just 3 2/3 innings.
The outing marked the second time in three starts that Rodriguez, who gave up nine runs against Toronto on June 14, has not completed five innings.
Afterward, Buchholz spoke with Rodriguez in the clubhouse while showing him replays of the lefty's delivery on a tablet. The elder statesman of the Boston rotation had tasked himself with reassuring the 22-year-old Rodriguez that these starts are part of every Major League pitcher's resume.
"To clear his mind," Buchholz said.
Pitching coach Carl Willis conveyed the same message.
"It's Major League stuff," Willis said. "He proved that the first three innings. It's a learning process -- small adjustments that need to be made and things that don't show up in the Minor Leagues because of the competition."
One of those adjustments moving forward will be Rodriguez's ability to pitch from the stretch.
Hitless through the first 10 outs of the game, the O's collected nothing but hits once Rodriguez began working with runners on base. The key drive was a two-run homer Matt Wieters belted to right to give his team a lead it kept.
"He's cruising along -- he retires the first 10 of the game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He was dominant. He had a number of swing-and-miss [pitches], and then he gets in the stretch, they make a little bit of an adjustment. He wasn't commanding the baseball when he got to the stretch.
"He fell behind in some counts. Wieters puts a good swing on the ball for the two-run homer to give them the second and third runs. Seven consecutive hits -- he couldn't get an out when needed. More than anything, it looked like [he unraveled] just when he switched to the stretch."
Rodriguez needed only 36 pitches to work the first three innings, then he labored over 31 pitches his second time through the order. The loss of command prevented him from effectively using his two secondary pitches in tandem with his electric mid-90s fastball.
"This was probably more fighting back in the count, where he couldn't use his changeup and his slider to create the mix that he did prior to that," Farrell said.
Coming into the game, opponents had gone just 2-for-36 against Rodriguez's slider and changeup. On Thursday, the O's went 4-for-5 with a sacrifice fly against those pitches, whiffing only once in nine swings.
"The first three innings, I threw the ball where I wanted with my slider, my changeup," Rodriguez said. "I think the last inning, I missed my spots, where I wanted to throw my slider and where I wanted to throw my changeup."
For Rodriguez, success came as quickly as one of his heaters. In the wake of another rough outing, the young pitcher's introduction to handling setbacks has arrived just as swiftly.
"That happens in the game; you lose sometimes," Rodriguez said. "You get damaged sometimes. ... I just tried to do too much when I got in the stretch."