Boston Red Sox left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez revealed he’s experimenting with a new breaking ball that he learned from Dustin Pedroia.
Add pitching coach to the ways Dustin Pedroia can contribute to the Boston Red Sox. The veteran second baseman may not be able to help his team on the field while recovering from the latest setback to his ailing knee but he’s still making his presence felt by working with teammates as an unofficial member of the coaching staff. Infielders aren’t the only ones benefiting from his experience though. Left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez revealed that he picked up a new trick from Pedroia prior to his latest outing.
Rodriguez put together his best start of the season on Wednesday, holding the Detroit Tigers to one run over six innings. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and made it through 6+ innings for only the second time this season.
Reaching six full innings is an important benchmark and not just because both starters in the previous day’s doubleheader failed to last more than five. In 45 career starts in which Rodriguez has gone 6+ innings, he’s 26-4 with a 2.27 ERA.
This success in his last start stems in part from a significant increase in the use of his slider, or a variation of the pitch that he altered with some tips from Pedroia.
"“To see the movement, and to see it was located pretty good right where I wanted,” Rodriguez told reporters after the game, per WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “It’s funny because four days ago, I was talking with Pedey in the dugout and he told me, ‘Hey, do you want to throw a really good breaking ball?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, bro, I’ve been battling to throw a breaking ball since I got here in the big leagues, since I was in the minor leagues,'” Rodriguez explained. “He told me, ‘Throw the ball like this and hold it like that,’ and two days ago I started throwing it with my knee over there, and it’s funny because the first time I threw that kind of breaking ball was today and it was working. So I’ve just got to say thanks to him.”"
Rodriguez eagerly played with his new toy, tossing the slider a season-high 16 times during his 90-pitch outing. That’s quite a jump for a pitcher who has utilized a slider only 6.4 percent of the time this season and 11.4 percent for his career, according to FanGraphs.
His hesitance to throw the slider is understandable considering how ineffective it has been. Rodriguez coughed up a home run and a deep fly out in the only plate appearances this season to end with the slider prior to last night. It’s a minuscule sample size yet not entirely unexpected from a pitcher who has allowed a career .394 wOBA and 160 wRC+ when using his slider.
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That was with the old slider though. The new grip that Pedroia showed him seems to be working better. E-Rod didn’t allow a hit on any of the 16 sliders he threw against the Tigers. He recorded a pair of outs and six strikes with the revamped pitch.
Rodriguez’ new breaking ball is still a bit of a work in progress and it’d be nice to see him throw it for strikes more consistently but it’s an improvement over what he had been working with. Perhaps more importantly, he has confidence when throwing it. Imagine how good he can be once he gains some experience with the pitch.
Putting opposing hitters away has long been a struggle for Rodriguez. He has tantalizing stuff but doesn’t always seem to trust it. He can be an elite strikeout artist but it takes too many pitches to get those punchouts. This hesitance to attack hitters results in his pitch count mounting rapidly. Finding an improved out pitch should allow him to finish off batters quicker so he can last deeper into games, which is the key to Rodriguez breaking out with a career year.