Two things you should know about new Dodgers pitcher Steven Rodriguez:
1. Only his mother calls him Steven. Everyone else calls him “Paco.”
2. He is not here to learn.
According to manager Don Mattingly, the 21-year-old could serve a valuable role out of the bullpen immediately. Because of injuries to Scott Elbert and Ted Lilly, Rodriguez joins Randy Choate as the Dodgers’ only healthy lefty reliever.
No 2012 draft pick has pitched in a major-league game yet, so Rodriguez was understandably surprised.
“Yesterday I was eating with our bullpen catcher back in Chattanooga and De Jon (Watson, the Dodgers’ farm director) calls me and says, ‘hey I’ve got some bad news for you.’
“I said, ‘what’s going on?’ And he’s like, ‘you’re going to have to drop your food, go pack your (belongings) and come in to L.A.’ My heart just started beating fast. A great feeling. Then I just called my parents, let them know I was coming up.”
Rodriguez finished his collegiate career for the University of Florida on June 16 in the opening round of the College World Series against South Carolina. He became a first-team All-SEC pick after posting a 3-2 record in 34 appearances with a team-leading 81 strikeouts in 62 innings. He registered a 2.18 ERA, notched four saves and limited opponents to a .211 batting average.
After being chosen in the second round (82nd overall) by the Dodgers, Rodriguez quickly ascended the minor-league ladder. He had six scoreless outings for Single-A Great Lakes in the Midwest League with a pair of saves, 10 strikeouts and zero walks. Promoted straight to Chattanooga, Rodriguez went 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 appearances, with 22 strikeouts, six walks and three saves in 13.2 innings. Opponents batted just .149 against him.
In 21 minor league appearances spanning 19.2 innings, he had a 32-to-6 walk-to-strikeout ratio and a 0.92 ERA.
That’s a small sample size, but the Dodgers like what they have seen so far.
“He wasn’t a high school kid. He was a college kid who’s pitched in some big games, has some angle for left-handers,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “That’s what we’re looking out of that — somebody that can get a lefty out. Try to use him like that. It’s another lefty out there, another weapon.”
Rodriguez was also a middle reliever in three seasons at Florida. After arriving in Los Angeles shortly after midnight last night, Rodriguez arrived at Dodger Stadium today and threw “about 20” pitches off the bullpen mound. He expects his parents to fly out from Miami in the next few days.
Asked being here seems “real” yet, the pitcher didn’t hide his emotions.
“No,” he said. “Let’s be honest. I’m just here to — I don’t even know how to put it in words. I have to perform at the end of the day. That’s all that matters. I have to get over it eventually.”
Rodriguez is the second player in head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s tenure at Florida to reach the majors, joining Nick Maronde, who was called up by the Angels last week. The Dodgers have one other former Gator on their roster, second baseman Mark Ellis.