Tonight, the Texas Rangers dip deeper into the well of pitching desperation. In an attempt to hold their rotation together, they are tossing 36-year-old lefty Wandy Rodriguez against the Los Angeles Angels.
Rodriguez has had a solid 10-year career in the majors going 91-94 with an ERA of 4.06. The native of the Dominican Republic spent the last three seasons in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. In six starts last season, he was 0-2 with an ERA of 6.75. In 2009, while with the Houston Astros, Rodriguez had his best season when he started 33 games going 14-12 with an ERA of 3.02.
Signed at the end of spring training after being released by the Atlanta Braves, the southpaw was stashed on the roster of the Rangers’ AAA affiliate in Round Rock simply to be a backup plan for the rotation. Though it is a small sample size (7 innings), Rodriguez has been solid in AAA going 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA.
The game plan for Rodriguez is the same game plan for any MLB pitcher. He will need to get ahead of hitters in order to use his off-speed pitches to induce ground balls and the occasional strikeout. Small in stature at 5-11 and 190 lbs., Rodriguez does not possess an overpowering fastball so location and command are essential to his game.
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So what can the Texas Rangers really expect from Wandy Rodriguez? No one expects him to become a shutdown pitcher at this stage in his career. In fact, he has never been that type of player. The best that can be hoped for is that Rodriguez is able to get beyond the fifth inning while keeping the team in the game. This may be difficult given the Rangers’ early-season offensive woes.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister and pitching coach Mike Maddux are looking for a veteran presence with past success to stabilize (or at least be a bandage on) the rotation until the middle of the season when the team hopes to see the returns of Derek Holland, Martin Perez, and possibly even Matt Harrison.
Rodriguez is also being called up to give the rest of the rotation an extra day off during which time the struggling Ross Detwiler will reportedly be working on mechanical flaws with Maddux (though from what we’ve seen young lefthander thus far, it is hard to imagine that an extra day of coaching will fix all of Detwiler’s issues).
With the injuries to Holland, Perez, and ace Yu Darvish, this Rangers’ rotation has quickly morphed into a Texas rotation from the mid 2000’s. Take 2006 for instance.
Average veteran starters with reputations greater than their current abilities (2000’s: Kevin Millwood, 2015: Yovani Gallardo) headed each rotation. The second starter was an aging veteran capable of a terrific outing one night and an early implosion the next start (2000’s: Vincente Padilla, 2015: Colby Lewis).
The problem in 2006 was a lack of talent. The problem this season is injuries. Let’s just hope that the 2015 rotation doesn’t take as long to fix as the rotations of the mid-2000’s did.