If there were any questions as to what Francisco Rodriguez would look like pitching in a Ducks uniform, they were answered pretty quickly.
He looks like K-Rod.
A little under three weeks into his Ducks tenure, the six-time All-Star has looked like his old self. In five appearances, Rodriguez was 1-0 with four saves and a perfect ERA. Entering Saturday night’s game against the Somerset Patriots, he had allowed three hits, walked one, and struck out five in five innings.
“He’s attacking the hitters, using his off-speed, and doing what K-Rod does, which is get people out,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said.
Baez may not have been surprised at the fast start, but Rodriguez was.
“When I got here, I expected to be a little rusty and all over the place, but that’s not been the case. It’s been way better than I thought it would be,” the former Met, said.
But, more important still, is that K-Rod feels like K-Rod. Rodriguez hurt his hamstring and groin in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Trying to play through it with the Tigers last season resulted in a 7.82 ERA and a June release.
“Last year was miserable,” Rodriguez said. “I had to do a lot of things prior to games to get going. It wasn’t going anywhere. But, this year I haven’t felt even one day of pain. I’m trying to get stronger physically as far as weight and agility and all that but I feel terrific. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Any “wading-in period’ that may have been in effect when Rodriguez got to Long Island is over. Baez said, unequivocally, that he would be available for back-to-back saves, if need be. The chains, however temporary they were, are off.
“Every day I feel stronger and better,” Rodriguez said. “I haven’t had any issues. I have soreness like everybody else the day after they pitch, but that’s normal. Remember, I spent five weeks without doing anything . . . I feel like it’s a spring training kind of thing. Once I get on the field everything goes away and what I want to do is get my job done.”
Rodriguez went to spring training with the Phillies, but was released before the season started. His command, he said, wasn’t quite there yet. But, much to the chagrin of Atlantic League hitters, that command has returned in full force.
“I’m throwing the pitches how I want, when I want,” Rodriguez said. “It’s been a plus for me. All I want now is to stay healthy and all I know is my body feels 100 percent now. The ball is coming out well, location is (good), velocity-wise, I have no idea how hard I’m throwing, but it seems to be back to normal. All I want to do is continue to help this ball club get Ws.”
He’s done just that. The Ducks have won all five games that Rodriguez has appeared in and, entering Saturday night, were 11-8, two games back of the Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division first half standings.
The obvious question now becomes — how much longer will Rodriguez be in Central Islip? Major League affiliates have signed numerous players out of the Atlantic League with less than an eighth of Rodriguez’s pedigree, so it would be a safe bet to assume that interest is there. But, Rodriguez doesn’t want to think about any of that. He has a two-track mind — stay healthy and help the Ducks win.
“I try not to pay much attention to that,” he said. “I cannot be worried about something I do not have control of. The one thing I have control of is todays game and that’s what I want to do.”