Strong-armed Rodriguez wants to prove worth to A's

After recovery from Tommy John surgery, reliever feeling great

Strong-armed Rodriguez wants to prove worth to A's

MESA, Ariz. -- Fernando Rodriguez is nearing the two-year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery, and the celebration is already underway. After throwing a bullpen Sunday, the A's right-hander said his arm hasn't felt so strong since college.

"Even before the surgery, I could feel it was tugging at me," said Rodriguez, now entering his 13th professional season. "There's no pain now. It's strong. Really strong. It feels like an iron chrome arm."

The hard-throwing Rodriguez is a likeable bullpen option among sundry right-handers but seemingly has more to prove than most because he's not on the 40-man roster. The A's consider themselves lucky, though, that he's even in their organization, after he cleared waivers upon being designated for assignment in December.

Rodriguez says the feeling is mutual.

"Having the opportunity to come back after Tommy John to get to the big leagues, even though I didn't throw a lot, I want to pay it back to them," he said. "I want to thank them for the opportunity by doing something for them, and I would love to pitch in Oakland. Playing there, in that stadium, that atmosphere, I love that feeling."

Barely a month had passed since Rodriguez came to Oakland with Jed Lowrie from Houston in a trade when Rodriguez learned he needed Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss all of 2013. His rehab took him through several months of 2014 as well, before he made his A's debut in May. The 30-year-old pitched well, allowing just one earned run in nine innings, but his stay was a short one because of a numbers crunch, and he spent most of the remaining months in Triple-A, where he had a 1.97 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings.

"I think he's got a little extra chip on his shoulder this spring to go out there and prove himself, because he's not on the roster yet, did everything that we asked of him last year and pitched well," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "Hopefully he has a good spring, because he has the ability to do it."

"It always comes down to being able to throw strikes," said Rodriguez. "Right now, feeling the way I feel, it's a lot easier to control my pitches. That's something every pitcher wants to feel, where it just comes easy. I was really happy with everything today.

"Everything pretty much was working, especially my curveball. That was something I didn't really use last year because it was such a feel pitch and I would lay off it because would bother me once in a while."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.