Left-hander Paco Rodriguez looked really sharp in his second Spring outing on Tuesday for the Dodgers. In his two relief appearances so far during Spring Training, Paco has struck out four batters, walked none and allowed just one hit with his revamped delivery.
Paco’s quirky delivery is one of the reasons why he has been one of my favorite Dodger relievers since he debuted with the team in 2012 in the same year he was drafted out of the University of Florida. I tend to forget that Paco will only be turning 24-years old on April 16th.
During the 2-2 tie against the Rockies on Wednesday, Paco had a particularly impressive outing striking out the side in the top of the eighth. The southpaw struck out Cesar Galvez, Joey Wong and David Dahl all on swinging strikeouts. Rodriguez didn’t even pitch one single ball. Nine consecutive swinging strikes were served up to retire the side in order.
A month ago I wrote about how important Paco Rodriguez will be for the Dodgers in 2015, and with Kenley Jansen‘s subsequent foot surgery, the young lefty’s bid for success this upcoming season becomes even more important for the Dodger bullpen.
Paco struggled in the latter parts of 2013 and only pitched in 19 games for the Dodgers last season before succumbing to the same shoulder injury which disabled Clayton Kershaw in early 2014. He never quite bounced back after fizzling out due to overuse in 2013, even though he was quite remarkable in 2012 and the first half of 2013 after becoming the first of his draft class to make it to the Majors.
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It looks like Paco is healthy, and his delivery mechanics have been tweaked in order to create a more fluid motion. This hasn’t been the first time Paco has tweaked the mechanics of his delivery. He has shortened the pause at the top of his delivery which creates a less jerky motion.
Paco changed his pitching mechanics last offseason as well, and according to Ken Gurnick, pitching coaches Rick Honeycutt, Ken Howell and Chuck Crim worked on fixing the problem which contributed to his poor performance in the second half of 2013.
"“Once I figured it out, it was like, ‘Wow, that’s how it feels,'” said Rodriguez. “I was pitching so well, but my arm slowly came up and it took away from my ability to hide the ball. It’s like night and day. I have a lot more control of my pitches.”"
Paco once again worked on honing his delivery for the second time. My friend Ron Cervenka over at Think Blue LA wrote about Paco’s offseason adjustments last month and his renewed confidence.
"“I worked on my delivery,” Rodriguez said. “Last year my arm was a little too high up. I think that was my biggest concern with my mechanics and just the rhythm of being comfortable to make a solid throw. That’s what I worked on the most.”"
Let’s take a look at his delivery over the course of a year.
March 1, 2014:
March 10, 2015:
Paco Rodriguez is vying to make a spot on the roster along with other left-handed relievers in camp like Daniel Coulombe, David Huff, Adam Liberatore, Chris Reed and non-roster invites Erik Bedard and Ryan Buchter.
J.P. Howell, Paco’s potential southpaw bullpen mate, has been temporarily sidelined with mild groin tightness. Howell was able to play catch on Tuesday without discomfort, and he has a bullpen session on Friday with a forecasted Sunday game plan to get back into action.
A healthy and confident Paco Rodriguez could be a vital piece to the Dodger bullpen puzzle. His dominant outing on Tuesday was hopefully a preview of what is to come for Paco in 2015.