22-year old starting pitcher Chris Rodriguez saw his role within the Los Angeles Angels organization change when he was asked to be a part of the major league bullpen. Given the Angels already employed six starting pitchers, manager Joe Maddon wanted to test out one of the team’s best pitching prospects in a more limited role.
The results have been better than Maddon had hoped for when he made the decision. Rodriguez has proven to be one of the most stable arms in the team’s relief crew during the early part of the season. In 10.1 innings pitched, Rodriguez has allowed eight hits, six walks, and four runs for an ERA of 3.48. However, it’s the 14 strikeouts — nearly 1.5 K’s per inning — that have made him a go-to option.
Maddon said the introduction of the changeup into Rodriguez’s arsenal is what has taken his game to a whole different level, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“The changeup really adds another layer to him,” Maddon said. “He’s a strike-thrower and he can get quick outs by challenging hitters with that fastball and force them to beat it into the ground. You can see him becoming a frontline starter. It gives me a lot to think about now that I’ve seen it.”
Beyond just calling him a “frontline starter,” Maddon had more significant praise for Rodriguez and gave some hints for his future role with the team.
“I love him as a late-inning pitcher,” Maddon said. “It’s all possible. He’s shown a lot of versatility. You trust him and you trust his stuff will be there. He had the one hiccup against Toronto in Dunedin where his command was off, but he’s got that real high-energy delivery and it comes out hot. He knows where it’s going and the hitters don’t like him because they don’t see him very well.”
With the Angels completely reshaping their bullpen over the offseason, it’s of huge importance that young prospects show their stuff on the big league stage. Rodriguez breaking out in this way makes it easier for the Angels to make bullpen decisions moving forward knowing that they have a young and reliable option.
For Rodriguez, continued success out of the bullpen could mean an eventual move to starter. As it stands, the Angels have multiple starters that will hit free agency at the end of the season, and him becoming a starter means one less player they’ll have to bring back.
Maddon keeping faith in Mike Mayers
Mike Mayers, the only returning bullpen arm from 2020, had a rough outing against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. However, Maddon is not losing faith in him, and still trusts him as one of the better arms the Angels have within their relief crew.