Washington Nationals’ prospect Jefry Rodriguez was pressed into service back on June 3rd in Atlanta, when Jeremy Hellickson injured his hamstring one batter into the bottom of the first, but the 24-year-old right-hander acquitted himself well in what was his major league debut, throwing 4 2⁄3 scoreless against the Braves in what ended up a 4-2 loss in which he received no decision.
Davey Martinez told reporters after the game he was impressed with the length he got from Rodriguez and the stuff the right-hander showed on the mound in SunTrust Park.
“I expected maybe a couple innings, but he did really well,” Martinez said.
“I’m really excited about our future with a guy like that. He went out there, he was poised, pitched out of a couple innings where the balls got away from him a little bit, came back and threw strikes again, and he was really good.”
Going into his second start for the Nationals on Tuesday night, Martinez said he was hoping for more of the same from Rodriguez.
“I really liked that,” Martinez said of the righty’s in-game adjustments. “He got in a situation where he couldn’t find the plate, and he changed the pitch, and then he got right back into throwing strikes, and for a young guy that’s pretty good. He stayed out of trouble for the most part the first time we saw him, so hopefully he remembers that and does that today too.
“Don’t just go up there and just try to throw fastballs by everybody, make sure you use all your pitches, and when something does go bad, just step back. The biggest thing for me, and I talked to [catcher Spencer] Kieboom — is stay out of the big innings, and just keep throwing strikes.”
Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo reported that Martinez and Rodriguez had a quick exchange on the topic of throwing strikes in the manager’s office before the game.
“What’s the best pitch in baseball?” Martinez asked.
“Strike one,” Rodriguez responded.
The WaPost reporter noted that Rodriguez knew the expected response because, “it’s the answer the Nationals have pounded into his brain,” as they’ve developed him since he was signed out of the Dominican Republic for $75K in 2012.
Making his first major league start in the series opener with the Baltimore Orioles Tuesday night, Rodriguez, threw two scoreless on 41 pitches, but gave up a double and a two-run home run in the third, putting the Nationals behind, 2-1.
Trey Mancini hit another two-run home run off the Nats’ starter in the fourth inning, taking a 95 mph 2-2 fastball out to left field to put the Orioles up, 4-1.
Two walks and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with no one out in the O’s fifth, but he got a 4-6-3 DP out of Manny Machado, on which a run scored, and picked up his sixth K in what ended up one-run inning that ended his outing.
Jefry Rodriguez’s Line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 6 Ks, 2 HRs, 96 P, 60 S, 6/1 GO/FO.
Five of Rodriguez’s six strikeouts came via the curveball, which he threw 21 times, for 14 strikes, generating eight swings and five swinging strikes with the pitch.
His four-seam fastball sat 96 and got up to 98 mph. His stuff was impressive, though his command was an issue, as Martinez noted.
“He’s got really good stuff,” Martinez said.
“He’s young. Like I said, we talked to him a lot about throwing strike one, and getting ahead of hitters. He had a lot of 2-2, 3-2 counts, made a couple mistakes, but I liked what I saw.
“He’s got electric stuff.”
Will Rodriguez get another start as the Nationals fill in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson?