Mechanical adjustments pay big dividends vs. Yanks
By Deesha Thosar
NEW YORK -- Before he was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket in late June, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez had a bad tendency of tipping pitches. But during the Red Sox's 5-2 win over the Yankees on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, the southpaw erased his mechanical issues for a mighty return to the Major Leagues.
Over six starts before being optioned to Pawtucket, the lefty went 1-3 with a 8.59 ERA. Rodriguez said the difference on Saturday was his location while blocking the thought of tipping pitches out of his mind.
"Now I don't think about tipping stuff and all that, just throwing the ball right where I wanted," Rodriguez said.
The lefty's seven innings was his longest outing of the year, and it was five pitches shy of the most he's thrown this year (102). Rodriguez scattered four hits, one run, walked two and notched one strikeout.
Besides Brett Gardner, who singled in the first and went deep in the third, New York's lineup was befuddled by Rodriguez's slider. He retired 17 of the 23 batters faced.
"I like to pitch everywhere. A lot of people, less people," Rodriguez said. "I just got to ... try to put the team in a position to win the game."
Rodriguez improved to 4-1 with a 2.01 ERA against the Yankees. Manager John Farrell said along with Rodriguez's hand adjustments, the pitcher's past experience against New York helped him remain vigilant. Rodriguez recording just one strikeout wasn't a concern for Farrell, as long as he was comfortable on the mound.
"Clearly he got into a good rhythm," Farrell said. "He was able to settle into a good comfort level. He did an outstanding job in the middle innings. His seven innings is potentially a major shot in the arm for our rotation. It was good to see."
Rodriguez is now 6-2 when the Red Sox give him three to five runs of support. The southpaw's ability to go deep into the game was crucial for Boston, as reliever Junichi Tazawa's departure to the 15-day disabled list is just one example of a tired bullpen.
Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said the 23-year-old was working hard to make hand adjustments in Pawtucket, where it was easier to negate pitch tipping.
"We're beyond the All-Star break now, every game is important and particularly games within the division," Willis said. "He's still young in terms of experience in the Major Leagues. In general, he's young. So having struggled probably for the first time in his life, I think that to come out and have an outing like he had today in Yankee Stadium certainly is nothing but a confidence boost."
Deesha Thosar is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.