May 31, 2016 at 9:30 AM
SoxProspects Assistant Director of Scouting Chaz Fiorino was in attendance for Eduardo Rodriguez’s final rehab start. This is his report from the field, including his take on a mechanical adjustment to the windup of Rodriguez. Chaz also wrote up Rodriguez's previous rehab start here.
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Eduardo Rodriguez made his fifth rehab start with Pawtucket on May 24, in what we now know was his final minor league start of the stint. He has since been announced as tonight’s starter for Boston, replacing a struggling Clay Buchholz in the rotation. Rodriguez’s final line on the day was 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, thus making it the best results he’s had in a rehab start to date, returning from the right knee injury suffered in spring training. He threw 102 pitches, 69 of them strikes; throwing first-pitch strikes to 18 of 25 batters and generating eight swing-and-misses.
The biggest thing that stood out in this outing was a slight mechanical adjustment that Rodriguez made to his windup delivery that simplifies it by mimicking his stretch delivery. It was strange and unexpected to see such an adjustment given that Rodriguez had not struggled with command or control and had great success with his old delivery prior to his right knee injury. However, the slight adjustment actually does simplify things a bit for Rodriguez, and he repeated the new delivery well and continued to pound the zone all night as he did in his previous outing before the change. As you can see in the video below, this slight adjustment allows Rodriguez to stay a bit more on-line towards home with his body and lead shoulder. Ideally, this will help him minimize any previous tendency to miss up and away arm-side as a result of not always getting closed off when he would start more open.
Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis shed more light on the change in Alex Speier’s May 26 edition of his 108 Stitches Newsletter, saying: “Eddie [Rodriguez] felt that his previous windup, when he would step in, he didn’t always get as closed and squared up to home plate as he wanted. With this delivery, he starts in that position and the shoulder never leaves that direction.” Rodriguez seemed very comfortable adapting to this adjustment and had some of his best command and control to date this year.
The fastball is still clearly a step back velocity-wise from where it was last season, while his command of the pitch was as good as it has ever been. The fastball ranged 89-92 mph in this outing, topping out at 92 mph. The changeup is also not quite back to its previous form and consistency. It is currently an average-grade offering, but is missing the hard, fading sink and ability to generate swing-misses that we saw last season. For the second straight outing, Rodriguez hung a changeup to a right-handed hitter in the later innings that was belted for a home run.
While the overall results were encouraging, this was very much a repeat performance of his prior outing on May 14 in terms of overall stuff. The fastball and changeup were still behind where they were in 2015. However, the recently-added cutter is encouragingly already an average-grade pitch as was his slider, and the overall command and control of all four pitches was great.
In an ideal world, it would have been nice to get Rodriguez another start in Triple-A to continue to regain confidence in his landing leg, become more comfortable with his simplified delivery, and also see if the velocity on the fastball and consistency of the changeup would return. However, given the struggles of Buchholz, the Red Sox were forced to bring back Rodriguez probably a start sooner than they would have liked. Rodriguez can come up and give you a chance to win, but he has yet to show the pure stuff from 2015 that had people thinking he was ready to step in and be a potential number two starter.
Photo credit: Kelly O’Connor
Chaz Fiorino is Assistant Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @cbfiorino.