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OC Register: Chris Rodriguez’s long road finally leads to Angels’ Opening Day


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Angels pitcher Chris Rodriguez hasn’t felt physical discomfort throughout spring training and wasn’t feeling it mentally heading into Tuesday’s exhibition finale at Dodger Stadium.

Rodriguez learned a few days prior that his big league dreams were coming true after Angels manager Joe Maddon and interim pitching coach Matt Wise told the right-hander he made the Opening Day roster.

“Once (Maddon) said I made the team, I completely blacked out,” Rodriguez said Tuesday. “He kept on talking after. He said great things and I could only hear a little bit. All I could think about was, ‘… This actually worked out.’ And it was such a blessing.”

After a nearly two-year hiatus and with two screws in his back, it finally all worked out for the 22-year-old pitcher with high expectations.

Rodriguez immediately remembered his long path to the majors after his coaches broke the good news, and he found it ironic that it came in the same hotel he was in before having back surgery in 2019.

But Rodriguez controlled his emotions because he didn’t want to cry in front of Maddon and Wise. He later lost control when he shared his good news with family and heard his father shout “Hooyah” in celebration.

“They’re just super excited and screaming for me,” Rodriguez said about his family. “Once I heard that, I couldn’t hold it in. And I started crying. I held my tears in for Joe. I didn’t cry in front of him or Matt, and once I heard my parents’ voice, it all came out so quick.”

Rodriguez will be one of the Angels’ eight bullpen pitchers when they open the season Thursday night against the Chicago White Sox. For nearly 20 months, Rodriguez wasn’t on a game-day roster at any level.

Back issues wiped out almost all of Rodriguez’s 2018 season and he was shut down after three minor league games in 2019. It took him nearly a year to recover from back surgery, but the pandemic limited his 2020 to only intrasquad games at the Angels’ alternate training site at Blair Field in Long Beach.

The flamethrower known as “C-Rod” was officially back when he struck out two Cincinnati batters to end his hiatus earlier this month. Rodriguez appeared in eight spring training games and posted an ERA of 4.50 with 10 strikeouts in eight innings of work.

“From the very beginning, I just wanted to stay healthy,” said Rodriguez, the Angels’ 2016 fourth-round pick. “I just wanted to prove that I could be here. That was the biggest goal of this spring, and as spring kept going along and as I was throwing, I got more confident and I was like, ‘You know what, I’m healthy. I’m healthy. This is great.’

“When I got hurt, I heard a lot of things like, ‘This kid can’t stay healthy. C-Rod can’t stay healthy.’ All this stuff and I used that as motivation and I wanted to use that to get to the spot I’m in now.”

The Angels haven’t ruled out using Rodriguez as a starting pitcher, but they’re intrigued by his potential as a reliever and will monitor his workload for his first major league season.

“It’s going to be fascinating to watch,” Maddon said of Rodriguez. “We have a lot of confidence in him. It’s going to require attention, not to the point where it becomes overbearing or annoying, it’s just that you gotta pay attention to a young guy (when) breaking him in like this.”

ADDITIONAL TICKETS AVAILABLE

With Orange County moving to a less-restrictive tier for COVID-19 precautions, the Angels will be allowed to sell more home game tickets this season.

An additional 5,000 tickets will go on sale Wednesday afternoon, including for Thursday’s season opener at Angel Stadium.

“This is perfect timing for us to welcome back even more of our fans to celebrate the start of our 60th Anniversary season,” club spokesman Adam Chodzko said in a statement. “Additional tickets will be available starting (Wednesday) afternoon. Fans should check out Angels.com/tickets for more details.”

Angel Stadium is now allowed to admit approximately 14,850 fans.

HOYT GETS OPTIONED

The Angels quickly optioned James Hoyt to the alternate training site after acquiring the reliever from the Miami Marlins on Monday.

Initially, the Angels said they were considering Hoyt for their Opening Day roster. Now, it seems the final bullpen spot will come down to Aaron Slegers, Jaime Barria or Junior Guerra.

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Gonna post this in this thread, since it is Chris Rodriguez related:

 

As I've seen him pitch, long-term, I feel the plan is still that he'll ultimately be a SP.  I think this year, they are being judicious in how many innings he pitches, but long-term he has the look of a possible SP2/SP3 type starter for an organization that is a bit shallow in terms of legit SP prospect depth.

Could imagine sometime in 2022, we'll see a rotation of - Bundy (if re-signed to an extension), Ohtani, CRod, Detmers, Canning, with others (Barria, Sandoval, Suarez) possibly in the mix, depending on injury, performance, etc.

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I mention this just about every single opportunity I can. Rodriguez has 4 legit plus-pitches in his arsenal. Guys who have 2 plus-pitches are typically late-inning relief guys. You are a top-of-the-rotation/ace if you have 3 plus-pitches. If you have 4 plus-pitches? You are one of the best pitchers in baseball. I really hope the organization's long-term plan is for him to be in the rotation. 

Check out this thread I found on his repertoire after his major league debut.

 

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, rafibomb said:

I mention this just about every single opportunity I can. Rodriguez has 4 legit plus-pitches in his arsenal. Guys who have 2 plus-pitches are typically late-inning relief guys. You are a top-of-the-rotation/ace if you have 3 plus-pitches. If you have 4 plus-pitches? You are one of the best pitchers in baseball. I really hope the organization's long-term plan is for him to be in the rotation. 

Check out this thread I found on his repertoire after his major league debut.

 

I do believe that his future will be as a SP.  His stuff is so good that he is literally pitching in the MLB despite having thrown just 9.1 innings above low-A in his minor league career!

I mean how incredible is that?  I'm sure the FO/Maddon will see how it goes, but I imagine this year he'll mainly just focus on relief and pitching 2-3 innings at a time, so that he can throw around 80 innings or so this year.  Then, next year, he'll be built up as a SP.  I think if we re-sign Bundy, we could have a really strong rotation with Bundy, Ohtani, CRod, Detmers, Canning by some point in 2022.  Bundy, Ohtani, and CRod, in particular, could make one helluva top of the rotation.

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Fernando Valenzuela started off his MLB career pitching in relief in September 1980 and excelling, after only pitching briefly in low minors and one season in AA.

Have CRod continue to pitch 2-3 innings in relief until May and then have him go to AA (avoid the high altitude) as a starter for the rest of the season and stretch him out to 90-100 pitches per start by mid-June.

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3 minutes ago, Angel Oracle said:

Fernando Valenzuela started off his MLB career pitching in relief in September 1980 and excelling, after only pitching briefly in low minors and one season in AA.

Have CRod continue to pitch 2-3 innings in relief until May and then have him go to AA (avoid the high altitude) as a starter for the rest of the season and stretch him out to 90-100 pitches per start by mid-June.

Sure, could see that as an option.  Pena will probably be ready in about 2-3 weeks or so and someone will need to be optioned down.  The only optionable relievers are Slegers and CRod.  I think in terms of long-term planning, they'd probably want him to have his innings managed.  And, well, I'm guessing they probably want to retain a year of control too, which means he'll need to be off the MLB roster for a bit over 3 weeks to avoid accruing 1 year of service time.  

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