With the Red Sox pitcher starting the season in the DL, it is time to remember his Major League debut.
At a time where the Red Sox needed an ace, or at least someone to perform like one, the team found the answer in a young rookie who was traded from the Baltimore Orioles in 2014. At the time of the trade, the Red Sox were completely out of contention, Andrew Miller was dealing as a reliever and Baltimore was interested in him to continue with their pursuit of winning the division. Boston pulled the plug and received Rodriguez in exchange for Miller, and at that moment we had no idea about the impact the Venezuelan pitcher would make.
Entering the 2015 season, the top pitching prospects that were making noise for the Red Sox were Henry Owens and Brian Johnson, the first one even mentioned as a trade target for other teams during the offseason. While Owens and Johnson were expected to be the future of the team’s pitching staff, Rodriguez impressed during his first games in the minors, posting a 2.98 ERA in 48.1 IP before his Major League call-up.
On May 28th, the Red Sox were in fourth place with a 22-26 record, winning only four of their last ten games. By that time, most fans and media already had the sense that only a miracle could save the season; and Rodriguez looked like one. By May 29th, Rodriguez was only expected to throw just one start to give him Major League experience and maybe get a call-up in September, but he ended up pitching a gem to win a permanent spot on the rotation.
Facing the Texas Rangers, Rodriguez pitched 7.2 innings shutout while only allowing three hits and striking out seven. Besides a double from Josh Hamilton in the second inning, Rodriguez was un-hittable, with some of his pitches even reaching 98 miles per hour.
His first 105 pitches at the Major League level gave the Red Sox something they desperately needed: hope.
"“He told me in the dugout — we had a long talk — he was telling me before he made his first pitch his heart was about ready to pop out of his chest,” David Ortiz told The Boston Globe “A story like that is good to hear. For a lot of people, it’s easy to get to this level but the toughest part is maintaining this level for a long time."
A few days before May 29th, the story for that day was supposed to be Hamilton’s return to Arlington for the first time, but Rodriguez ended up stealing the show.
The left-handed pitcher became the first Red Sox starter since Daisuke Matsuzaka to strike out seven or more in their first major league start, but describing how historic this debut was doesn’t do justice to what it actually meant for the team. The rotation was a complete and utter disaster, with Clay Buchholz being the only one showing signs of hope from time to time, and Rodriguez’s arrival changed the narrative of how the team was going to pitch for the rest of the season.
Rodriguez ended his rookie season with a 3.85 ERA, 10 wins and six losses. His numbers might not be as impressive as the ones an ace would post, but considering that he is only 22 years old and now has David Price as his mentor, the left-handed pitcher can only improve. He is starting the 2016 season in the DL, but that shouldn’t stop him from being a solid pitcher for the Red Sox.