Before the start of the finale of the Washington Nationals’ four-game set in SunTrust Park, the Nats announced that veteran reliever Tim Collins was going on the Paternity List with 24-year-old prospect Jefry Rodriguez called up to help out of the bullpen in Atlanta.
It was the second call-up of the season for Rodriguez, who came up for a day during the doubleheader with the Los Angeles Dodgers last month in the nation’s capital, but never pitched and was returned to Double-A.
In 11 starts for the Harrisburg Senators before he joined the Nationals in Atlanta on Sunday, including a six-inning, 87-pitch outing this past Thursday, Rodriguez was (4-3) with a 3.88 ERA, a 3.79 FIP, 23 walks (3.57 BB/9), 60 Ks (9.31 K/9), and a .242 batting average against in 58 innings.
Ranked 16th overall in the organization by MLB.com’s Pipeline scouts, and cited as having the “Best Fastball” in the Nationals’ Minor League system by Baseball America, Rodriguez, who signed out of the Dominican Republic for $75K in 2012, was described in MLB.com’s scouting report on the right-hander as a, “.... tall and physical righty with an electric arm,” who, “boasts an effortless plus-fastball that touches 97 mph and sits 93-95 with angle and sink.”
“His above-average curveball is a hammer,” the scouting report continued, “... standing out for its power as well as the late downer action that helps him miss bats,” with a serviceable changeup that is a work in progress.
When Nationals’ starter Jeremy Hellickson was injured two batters into the finale with the Braves on Sunday, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez called upon Rodriguez to make his MLB debut.
Rodriguez was sitting 93-95 with his two and four-seam fastballs, mixing in his slider and his changeup as he recorded two quick outs in the first, with the runner he inherited coming in, and he worked around a single and a walk in a scoreless 19-pitch second.
He worked around a two-out double by Freddie Freeman in the third, and with his fastball at 95-97 and touching 98 in the fourth, stranded two runners in a 16-pitch frame to finish 3 2⁄3 IP at 51 pitches, and a 12-pitch fifth left him at 63 pitches, with four hits and two walks in 4 2⁄3 innings of work. That was it for Rodriguez.
Jefry Rodriguez’s Line: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 63 P, 41 S, 2/3 GO/FO.
Martinez said the younger starter gave them more than they could have expected.
“I expected maybe a couple innings, but he did really well,” Martinez said, after what ended up being a 4-2 walk-off loss. “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.”
Rodriguez told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, that he was excited to test himself in the majors.
“I was very excited about today. This is what I worked for, worked my whole career hard to get to this point and have an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues, which I did today.”
Martinez let him go as far as he did because Rodriguez told him he could keep going and he was enjoying success.
“Every inning I asked him, ‘How you doing?’ and he said, “I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine.’ I didn’t want him to go more than 60 pitches, he stayed right at 63.”
Hellickson is headed for an MRI when the Nationals return to the nation’s capital. GM Mike Rizzo didn’t talk about Rodriguez as part of the depth in the organization when he talked to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last month, with righties Erick Fedde and Austin Voth mentioned as, “... the depth down in the minor leagues after Jeremy.”
Will they need to fill Hellickson’s spot next time around?
“We don’t know yet,” Martinez said when he was asked if he thought Hellickson would likely land on the Disabled List. “I know he’s got an MRI scheduled, so we’ll know more after that.”