Carlos Rodriguez Stays on the Field in Lakewood

After a problem - and attitude - filled 2003, Carlos Rodriguez is working his way back into the good graces of the Phillies. While his offensive numbers aren't what they were back in 2002 and his defense is still an issue, at least Rodriguez has come through a successful attitude adjustment. At least the Phillies haven't had to send him home because of his behavior.

This time last year, Carlos Rodriguez was just returning from a forced vacation. The Phillies had enough of off the field issues with Rodriguez and sent him home. The eviction cost Rodriguez five weeks of the season, but with the numbers he was putting up, odds are that he didn't really miss much. Rodriguez finished the season just .196, well below the .293 average that he posted in his first two professional seasons.

Make no mistake about it, the Phillies never doubted Rodriguez' talent and they didn't take the idea to suspend him lightly. Through his first two seasons, Rodriguez was almost everything that the Phillies had hoped he would be. Defensively, Rodriguez was a bit of a question mark, but the Phillies believed that with some more work, he could develop defensively. The frustrating part of it was that at times, Rodriguez would make plays that would have made Ozzie Smith look like an average shortstop. Then, a routine ground ball would roll gently through Rodriguez' legs and the head scratching would begin.

Coming into 2004, the Phillies hoped that they would see signs of the old Carlos Rodriguez. They made the decision to start Rodriguez at class A Lakewood. They haven't seen the old Rodriguez. They have seen a better player than they saw last season and have definitely seen a stronger, more constructive attitude from Rodriguez, though. Through 82 games, Rodriguez is hitting .264 for Lakewood. Defensively, Rodriguez is still the same problematic player that he has been throughout his career.

So, where does all of this leave Rodriguez as far as the Phillies are concerned?

The bottom line is that Rodriguez is not back to being the player that he was in his first two professional seasons. His defense hasn't improved and his offensive numbers are lower than the strong numbers that he put up in the Gulf Coast League and at Batavia. Considering that this is his second season in the South Atlantic League, the Phillies had hoped for better. A change of positions is not out of the question either. Rodriguez has played all 82 of his games at shortstop this season, but could find himself taking a bunch of steps to his left and moving to second base at some point down the road.

Rodriguez won't reach his 21st birthday until after the season. He's young enough to learn and while his attitude has improved, he's not completely matured. There is time for Rodriguez to still develop. Rodriguez has well above average speed (he finished fourth in the New York - Penn League in stolen bases in 2002) and just needs to find more ways to reach base. Cutting down on his strikeouts would be a good place to start. Coming into the season, Rodriguez had whiffed once every 5.1 at bats. This season, Rodriguez has shown some improvement, striking out once every 6.9 at bats. The progress with Rodriguez has been slow, but the Phillies have noticed the changes. The final six weeks of the minor league season will be important for Rodriguez, to say the least.

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