May 22, 2016 at 9:00 AM
SoxProspects Assistant Director of Scouting Chaz Fiorino recently took in Eduardo Rodriguez's start in Pawtucket. This is his report from the field.
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Eduardo Rodriguez made his fourth rehab start with Pawtucket as he continues recovering from a right knee injury suffered during spring training. As we now know, Rodriguez was recalled from his rehab without being activated days later, as he continues to suffer from soreness in that knee. That he was still not fully healthy was apparent in the outing, as described below, and is evidence that the Red Sox did the right thing by shutting him down in the short term.
Rodriguez’s final line was 5 2/3 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. He threw 100 pitches, 71 of them strikes. He pitched with a free and easy delivery and was able to consistently pound the strike zone with a four-pitch mix, throwing first-pitch strikes to 20 of 25 batters. However, his velocity and pure stuff were still a step back from where he was at his peak last year.
The fastball mostly sat 91-92 mph and topped out at 94 once. The decline in velocity had me thinking—as we now know, correctly—that he was still cautious of his right landing leg, and as a result not generating as much power from his legs in his delivery. Overall, the fastball lacked movement and the usual life on the pitch he has had in the past when sitting in the 94-95 mph range.
Rodriguez relied heavily on establishing his fastball early and stayed with it even when he had two strikes and was ahead in the count rather than trying to get hitters to chase his changeup or slider. The first batter of the game, Rodriguez faced Braves 19-year-old prospect Ozzie Albies hitting from the right side. Rodriguez stayed with the fastball ahead in the count 0-2 and left it up in the zone, where Albies was able to stay back and drive it to the wall in right-center for a double. To lead off the second inning, Rodriguez left another two-strike fastball up in the zone that right-handed hitter Adonis Garcia was able to muscle to right-center for a solo home run.
Getting back to the positives, in addition to his overall strike-throwing ability in the outing, another positive takeaway was Rodriguez’s addition of a cutter to his arsenal. The pitch sat 86-88 mph and appears to be an immediate average-grade offering with horizontal cutting action that is shorter than that of his slider. The pitch is another effective way to help keep hitters off the fastball and disrupt timing to induce weak contact. It also gives another look to that slider, which comes in at a lower velocity range of 80-83 mph with longer tilt.
At its best, Rodriguez’s changeup is usually his best secondary pitch and a plus grade offering. In this outing, it was average at best, lacking its usual fade and sinking action and ranging 83-86 mph. The pitch was not effective in missing bats, and Rodriguez made a mistake with the pitch as he began to fatigue in his last inning, hanging one first-pitch to a right-handed hitter for a home run to left-center-field.
My overall take from this outing was that Rodriguez was not ready to immediately help in the big league rotation—which, again, has since been confirmed—and that his overall stuff, particularly the fastball and changeup, are a step back from when he was at his best in 2015. Given this impression, it seems that shutting Rodriguez down in the short term to get him right before sending him back to the mound was the correct move on the club’s part, serving the interests of both the team and the player in both the short and long term.
Photo credit: Kelly O’Connor
Chaz Fiorino is Assistant Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @cbfiorino.