Padres Prospect Interview: R.J. Rodriguez

San Diego Padres scout Joe Bochy united the squad with R.J. Rodriguez. In his first year in the system, pitching for the Eugene Emeralds, Rodriguez spun magic as the team's closer. We caught up with Rodriguez to talk about his year, the changeup, and Instructs.

Talk about your season in Eugene and working out in the closer's role.

R.J. Rodriguez: I think I did pretty good. It was a different role than I was used to in college because I was a starter and out there I was a closer but I liked it. I liked the pressure. I liked the situations. I liked being able to pitch the ninth inning and my team having my back on the field.

Did you find it difficult to get into a rhythm coming in as a reliever when all you knew previously was starting?

R.J. Rodriguez: Definitely. When I first started out doing the relieving role it was a little slow because I had to take more time to warm up and I wasn't used to it. As the season went on I started to get more comfortable and was getting warmed up in a shorter amount of time than I was used to.

Was the changeup something new to your repertoire this year – as it is stressed that everyone throw it?

R.J. Rodriguez: The changeup is something I pulled along from college and worked on and it became my go-to pitch. I got a lot more comfortable with it to throw it in any count.

When you work with a guy like Wally Whitehurst, how can he help and how did he help you?

R.J. Rodriguez: He taught me a lot. He taught me to stay focused, stay ahead in the count, throwing a lot of strikes early, and we are working on a slider now to try to get something going in the other direction from the changeup. It is going good right now. I have had a rough couple of outings but you just have to stick with it.

Is that a pitch to get lefties or righties out specifically?

R.J. Rodriguez: More for right-handed hitters to keep it away from them and keeps them on their toes.

When you come to the Instructional Leagues, especially coming from Eugene, is it tough to get yourself pumped up mentally to pitch in this heat?

R.J. Rodriguez: Maybe just a little bit. It is a lot different weather than Eugene. The weather is beautiful out there. It might have a little to do with it but it is not the deciding factor. We do want to finish the game quicker because of the heat.

How did the signing come about?

R.J. Rodriguez: I was waiting on the draft and nothing came of it and about a week and a half after the draft Joe Bochy called me and asked me if I wanted to keep playing and I said, ‘yes.' A free agent wasn't what I was looking for but it is better than nothing. I took the chance and came out here and thank God I have started off good so far and hopefully I stay on the same path.

Obviously, it stinks that you weren't picked up in the draft. Did you consider why you weren't drafted?

R.J. Rodriguez: It is tough to figure out. I don't know why. I can't say why. I have no words to explain it. I had a decent enough year to where I should have been given a shot to get drafted. I am here nonetheless and that is all that matters.

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