In parts of four major league seasons, Ricardo Rodriguez has yet to distinguish himself. At 27, his best season came in 2004 when he pitched in five games - four of them starts - for Texas and went 3-1 with a 2.02 ERA. He threw one complete game and seemed like he was going to reach the potential that a lot of scouts saw in him.
Not so fast.
Last spring, the Rangers were cautiously optimistic about Rodriguez, but he failed miserably in spring training and started the season at AAA Oklahoma. Back at AAA, Rodriguez started to again show the promise that the Rangers were waiting to see and in June, Rodriguez was back with the big league club. Rodriguez joined the Rangers rotation for a start on June 12th against Florida and threw five strong innings. He followed that up with a good outing against the Nationals and after two starts, Rodriguez found himself at 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA. Then, the inconsistency returned. A bad outing against the Astros was followed up with a strong seven inning outing against the Angels. For the next month, there wasn't much positive in the way of outings for Rodriguez until he faced the Orioles. In that game, he threw seven innings, giving up just one run. Was Rodriguez finding the consistency this time? Nope. On August 3rd, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays pounded him and handed him his third loss of the season, pushing his season mark to 2-3 with a 4.95 ERA. In his next turn, he wouldn't even last an inning as the Red Sox shelled him and he left with a right shoulder bruise and finished his season on the DL.
So, other than inconsistency, what do we know about Ricardo Rodriguez?
We know that in the majors, he has had more overall success as a reliever than as a starter. Contrary to that though is the fact that the longer he pitches in a game, the better his numbers get. In his first three innings of work in a game, hitters hit .311 against Rodriguez. That number falls to .240 in the next three innings and down to .213 if he can last past six innings of work. In other words, if he can get through the early rough spots that he generally finds himself in, he's okay.
Charlie Manuel managed him for a short time in 2002 with Cleveland, but Manuel was never able to get much out of Rodriguez. In that season, Rodriguez went 2-2 with a 5.66 ERA in seven games, all of which were starts. Manuel suggested on Monday that he may prefer to give Rodriguez a shot at winning a spot in the starting rotation rather than having him pitch out of the bullpen. With the numbers that Rodriguez has posted in the past, you would hope that candidates like Gavin Floyd, Ryan Madson, Eude Brito and Robinson Tejeda would get more consideration than would Rodriguez for one of the final two spots in the rotation.
In the minors, Rodriguez put up some interesting numbers in 2005. As he did in the majors, right-handed hitters and left-handed hitters hit basically the same against Rodriguez (.221 against righties and .220 against lefties). The interesting part is that his ERA against right-handers was 3.43, while it was a little more than a run less against left-handed hitters at 2.35 for the season. If there is a minor league stat that suggests Rodriguez could have a future in the bullpen, it's his numbers when runners get on base. With runners on base, opposing hitters managed just a .155 average against Rodriguez. With runners in scoring position, they hit just .143. Plus, of the eight homeruns that Rodriguez surrendered, just one of them came with runners on base.
There are some similarities between Rodriguez and Vicente Padilla. Both came to new clubs with lots of potential and both have shown signs of reaching that potential somewhere along the line. However, both were too inconsistent to achieve success with their respective clubs. It's interesting as well that Padilla goes to Texas where he'll be paired with manager Buck Showalter, who was his first major league manager and Rodriguez will be in the same situation with his arrival in Philadelphia and a reunion with Charlie Manuel.
Trade analysis: This is a classic change of scenery trade for both players. It's also a somewhat desperate reach for both clubs hoping that an inconsistent pitcher from another club can come in and fill a particular need for their team. So, why did the Phillies deal Padilla for another inconsistent pitcher? Well, besides the hoped for response from a change of scenery, the Phillies will save approximately $4 million on the deal since Padilla was headed for arbitration and Rodriguez still has some time to go before he qualifies for arbitration. Why did Texas want to take on the added income? They're hoping that they can sign Padilla to an incentive laden deal and believe that he can find consistency in a different surrounding. After all, Padilla has shown slightly more promise than Rodriguez has as a major league pitcher. So, is it a good deal for the Phillies? Actually, it is. The Phillies weren't counting on much from Padilla and he would have been expensive. Odds are that they might have at least given serious thought to making him a free agent by non-tendering him a contract for next season. At that point, they would have gotten absolutely nothing for him. This way, they at least have a chance of getting someone who can help in exchange. If nothing else, the Phillies hope that Rodriguez may provide a little insurance for either the rotation or the bullpen and he's definitely cheaper, allowing the Phillies a few bucks to spend elsewhere. Besides being cheaper, Rodriguez is also a year younger than Padilla, which doesn't account for much, but again, it's better than getting absolutely nothing in return.
Career stats of Vicente Padilla and Ricardo Rodriguez