Henry Rodriguez hadn't pitched in five days when he gave up a run in an inning of relief work against the Miami Marlins last Monday. The 25-year-old Nats' right-hander gave up a leadoff double by Jose Reyes (on a pop to center that Rick Ankiel non-chalanted) and saw the Fish shortstop score two at bats later after a groundout moved him to third and a sac fly brought him in. Rodriguez threw 20 pitches, 13 of them strikes and allowed a run in his third straight trip to the mound. Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson put the run against the Marlins on his center fielder, however, telling reporters after the game, "[Ankiel] is too good a player to not know that [Reyes] is going to try to stretch that. You can't assume [the runner's] not going for two and [Ankiel] took an extra stride and then had to throw off the wrong foot. That put us in a hole right there," giving the Marlins an insurance run after they'd taken the lead in the previous inning.
"I thought Henry acquitted himself real good today," Johnson added, "He hasn't thrown the ball well, but he threw the ball really well and should have been able to get out of that inning without any trouble the way he was throwing." The relief appearance in Miami came at the end of a month which saw Rodriguez blow two saves in rather spectacular fashion and come close a few other times before eventually losing his job as the Nationals' closer after a stretch of wild outings which saw him give up four hits, two of them game-winning HR's, six runs and five walks in just 4.2 IP. The next time the Nats' manager spoke about Rodriguez he announced that reliever was unavailable to pitch after he'd injured his finger...
Davey Johnson was talking with reporters about the injury to Chad Tracy being another blow for a team that's had to endure significant injuries already this season with Drew Storen, Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and others all missing time, and then the manager added another name to the list. "Losing Tracy was a big blow to us," Johnson said, and, "[Henry] Rodriguez came back and he slams his finger in a door. Just a lot of things... hopefully we'll get a little healthy by Friday. But this has been a rough road trip. We lost [Ryan] Mattheus. It's the guys we lost that hurts on this road trip."
Rodriguez slammed his finger in a door?
"Yeah, he slammed it in the bathroom door or something," Johnson repeated, "Pitching hand." The manager reported that the reliever had tried to throw, but had to have a protecting covering on his finger since it had swollen up. "Hopefully he'll be alright Friday," the Nats' skipper said. Talking to reporters on Friday, before the Nationals' game against the Atlanta Braves was postponed, Johnson said that he'd spoked to his pitching coach, who cleared the right-hander for a return to action. On the same day the Nationals reported that Michael Morse would make his much-anticipated return to the lineup, the team learned that its beleaguered reliever had avoided becoming the latest to make a trip to the DL after Storen, Brad Lidge and Mattheus.
"I just got a thumbs up from [Steve] McCatty that [Rodriguez] threw," Johnson said, "And he's recovered from slamming the door on his finger, pitching finger. So things are looking up here." Can Rodriguez turn things around on the mound? With Lidge and Storen out the Nationals were forced to put the right-hander in a position he may not have been ready to fill. Though both the Nats' manager and GM supported the pitcher in the press, it eventually became clear that they'd have to take him out of the high-pressure late-inning environment, but he has no options remaining so he's likely not going anywhere anytime soon. Can Rodriguez become the lights out seventh or eighth inning arm he was starting to look like late last season, before everything started to go wrong again this year?