Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez fixed issue with pitch tipping


Boston Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez believes he has fixed the mechanical flaws that led to him tipping his pitches last year.

Here’s a tip for any young starter that wants to be successful at the major league level – it’s easier if the opposing batter doesn’t know what’s coming.

That’s a lesson that Eduardo Rodriguez learned the hard way as a rookie last season with the Boston Red Sox. The 10-6 record and 3.85 ERA he produced were impressive for a 21-year old getting his first taste of big league action, but the results would have been even better had it not been for a couple of rough outings where the team believes he was tipping his pitches. When hitters at this level know what’s coming and can sit back waiting for the pitch they want then they are going to have a field day at the plate.

The good news is that the lefty believes he has fixed the problem.

"“When the season is done, I just said, ‘Now I’ve got it.’ I watched all my videos, everything I do, and I say ‘Now I fixed it.’ And I feel great with everything,” Rodriguez told reporters at JetBlue Park on Thursday, per’s Rob Bradford. “If you remember the videos they showed, it was my hands, it was my head. Now I’ve just got one mechanic and that’s what I’m going to stay with.”"

Rodriguez cruised through his first three starts to begin his career, allowing only 1 run over 20.2 innings, before suffering his fist taste of defeat in a brutal beat down at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays on June 14. Rodriguez coughed up 9 runs before being lifted with two outs in the fifth inning, looking nothing like the dominant young pitcher that had taken the mound in his previous outings.

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Red Sox coaches pointed out to him after the game what he was doing wrong. Video of his performance revealed that the position he held his glove varied depending on what pitch he planned to throw, while he also noticed that he had been tucking his chin before throwing an offspeed pitch.

The rookie worked on these mechanical flaws with Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis between starts and seemed to have everything ironed out when he held the Kansas City Royals to only one run in his next start. Just when Rodriguez thought he was in the clear, his pitch tipping woes reared their ugly head again. Rodriguez failed to get out of the fourth inning in his next start, as the Baltimore Orioles teed off on him for 6 runs.

The Red Sox again noticed that Rodriguez had been tipping his pitches in that outing, signaling that he hadn’t quite put those issues behind him yet. Tipping his pitches had never been a problem for him in the minor leagues, so dealing with this problem was completely foreign to him. As it turns out, it wasn’t as easy to rectify as he thought.

"“In the minor leagues, they don’t have those kind of cameras, they don’t have video rooms” explained Rodriguez. “They don’t have nothing. If they see it, it’s just a hitting coach in the minor leagues saying, hey, he’s doing this. Sometimes he’ll do this. But in the minor leagues, there aren’t those kind of hitters. (Big leaguers) can see, ‘Oh, he’s coming with a changeup,’ they can hit it pretty good, because they know where the ball is going to move.”"

Perhaps Rodriguez has had these mechanical flaws all along, but his opponents in the minor leagues either didn’t have the tools to recognize it or weren’t talented enough to take advantage. After teams were able to compile video of him from his first few major league starts it didn’t take long for them to figure out what he was doing.

Rodriguez says that he spent the winter working on his mechanics to ensure those pitch tipping issues would be a thing of the past. Considering he posted a 2.22 ERA over his final four starts in September, it seems he may have already put those flaws behind him.

Rodriguez still had a successful rookie year, but imagine how great he would have looked if it weren’t for those brief hiccups where he was tipping his pitches. Take away those two June outings when the Red Sox first noticed this becoming an issue and Rodriguez would have owned a 2.94 ERA, vaulting him into the top-five in the American League. Granted any pitcher would look significantly better if you could toss out two of their worst starts, but in Rodriguez’s case there are valid reasons to believe that the pitcher that took the mound for those two June starts doesn’t represent the pitcher that Rodriguez actually is.

Next: Red Sox potential bullpen battle

If Rodriguez has put his pitch tipping ways behind him, flirting with a sub-3.00 ERA in his sophomore season doesn’t sound like an unreasonable prediction.