Jake Fisher plays catch with Francisco Rodriguez every day. Not bad for a kid from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, who has never pitched in an affiliated level above rookie ball. But in the realities of baseball, there’s nothing really that strange about it.
Sure, one has 437 major-league saves and the other played in two different independent leagues last season, but for the last two months, they’ve been teammates — sharing a common goal of getting the Ducks to the playoffs.
There are countless differences between the two, but in 2018, only one really stands out — Fisher is a starter and Rod riguez is a reliever.
Fisher had a solid first half with the Ducks, his first significant chunk of time in the Atlantic League since being traded to Long Island from the independent Frontier League late last season. The lefthander went 3-4 with a 4.29 ERA in 12 starts before the All-Star break. He struck out 66 batters, second in the league, and walked only 11 entering the Ducks’ weekend series against the York Revolution.
Fisher was in Wednesday’s Atlantic League All-Star Game and allowed three runs in the third inning of the Liberty Division’s walk-off 4-3 victory over the Freedom Division at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip.
Rough All-Star inning aside, Fisher has proved to be someone the Ducks can count on. He credits Rodriguez with helping him corral his changeup, a pitch he’s throwing more consistently this year.
“A couple of the games, I’ve felt it well, and those have been some of my better games,” Fisher said. “There’s some games where I didn’t feel it as well and had to work off other things. But the games I’ve worked with it well and had good feel of it, it’s made it a lot easier.”
He added, “In years past, I’ve been able to throw a good changeup in games, just not as often. Being able to work it in there whenever I want is key, because it gets them off the breaking pitches. If [batters] only have two things they need to worry about, either fastball or breaking ball, then they can set one and expect a good at-bat. A changeup can offset that . . . It’s another club in the bag.”
Rodriguez, who certainly knows a thing or two about getting batters out, recognized how an improved changeup could help Fisher.
“We’re trying to work on working fast and down, and being able to command all the breaking pitches [when he’s] behind in the count,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going to help him because he’s not going to overpower anybody with a blazing fastball, but if he locates his secondary pitches, then things are going to be easier for him.”
Aside from occasional blips, things have been relatively easy for Rodriguez this season. He was 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA and 14 saves in 22 appearances entering Friday. He struck out 21 and walked 12 in his first 22 innings.
Not a bad guy to learn from.
n Just call them Rockers
The Atlantic League’s newest team, scheduled to begin play next season in High Point, North Carolina, will be known as the High Point Rockers, the league announced Thursday. The nickname beat out eight others as part of a fan vote. The Rockers will replace the Road Warriors, who have played every game this season on the road and were 17-49 entering the weekend.