Welcome to “Get To Know a Nat.” There are currently 39 men on the 40 man roster, and we’re going to give you the straight scoop on all of them! Not sure where to start with player and season previews? Not ready to jump into heavy metrics? Just want to get to know the players, what they do, and what to expect from them in 2013? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Name: Henry Alberto Rodriguez
Nickname(s): H-Rod, MPHRod, Pretty Freakin’ Bueno
DOB: February 25, 1987 (Age 25)
From: Zulia, Venezuela
Position: Relief Pitcher Bullpen Role: Middle Relief
With the Nats Since: Acquired via trade from Oakland A’s in 2010.
In 2012 there seemed to be no safe place on the field from Henry Rodriguez. “Duck” would have been sage advice, if you could accurately predict that the ball was coming for your head. H-Rod went from “Pretty Freakin’ Bueno” in Spring Training, to “Oh God H-Rod is pitching” in early May. He appeared in just 35 games for the Washington Nationals and was largely a mess from top to bottom. He slammed his finger into a door and missed a month of pitching, strained his back and also (apparently) kept an injury in his elbow quiet, which may account for the many problems Rodriguez had in 2012.
2013 will be the make or break year for H-Rod. He’s out of options and the Nationals are stacked with right handed arms, and they’ll be competing for a World Title this year. His leash will be incredibly short and there won’t be much room for mistake, and even less room for him on the roster if he doesn’t pull it together.
Still, Rodriguez offers a lot of promise, and he has shown he can do some very special things from the mound. Like the girl with the little curl, when Henry is good, he is very, very good. But when he’s bad…
What’s Expected: Henry Rodriguez throws the ball incredibly hard. I mean incredibly hard. His average velocity on his fastball is 97.6MPH. Think about that. That is not how fast he can throw. That is how fast he averages throwing. His change-up is about 91MPH. Granted he is only out there one inning at a time, but that’s harder than Stephen Strasburg throws (or, at least as hard). That’s why he’s MPHRod. It doesn’t matter how good you are as a batter, a ball coming in at 97 MPH (or as high as 101 MPH) is an unsettling and hard thing to make contact with, let alone hit. He has the ability to dominate batters, which is why Davey Johnson moved him to the closers role for a while when Drew Storen was out last year.
Of course, if we look at Baseball Reference, we can see why he didn’t last very long:
HRod does get strikeouts and he really doesn’t give up many home runs, but he throws a lot of wild pitches and walks way too many batters. He threw 10 Wild Pitches in just 29.1 innings last year (and that doesn’t count the number of times a catcher reached over, or up, and saved him from another one). Those pitches cost bases for the Nationals. Late in games Rodriguez gave away 90 feet over and over, and that’s not a good thing when you’re trying to put a game away. Rodriguez didn’t handle pressure well, either. He’s one of the few pitchers you could literally see the sweat and stress carried in his face, and it never went well after that.
Rodriguez was always a little wild, but the injury clearly didn’t help. He’d get behind in counts and was unable to use his full arsenal of pitches. Batters knew something was either coming right down the middle, or sailing into the backstop. It makes it very easy when you just have to wait for one type of pitch. Ask Jose Tabata or Matt Kemp.
If It All Goes Wrong: If it all goes wrong, Henry Rodriguez will not be on the Washington Nationals by the end of May. The Nationals simply have far too many talented right-handed pitchers to carry one that isn’t going to produce. They have three pitchers that can close, two pitchers that can handle long relief, five starters that can give you 6+ innings in any given night… and Ryan Mattheus. If Henry isn’t fully recovered, or if Henry can’t locate his pitches, he’s out. There are no options to send him back to Syracuse, or anywhere else, and the Nationals can’t carry a player they won’t use. If a good Left Handed reliever comes up, the Nats may want him instead of Henry- or they may want to bring up Christian Garcia or another pitcher the Nationals think has promise.
We’ve seen how it can go wrong with Henry Rodriguez, and the Nationals won’t watch a repeat of the nightmare that is Bad Henry for long.
If It All Goes Right: I don’t have a lot of faith that it will go right in Henry. I want him to do well, but I think he’s wildness is a little deeper than his health issues. That said, if he is healthy and does perform he can be an excellent alternative for nearly any pitcher in the bullpen. HRod at his best might be the best available, frankly. When Storen, Clippard or Mattheus needs a night off, the Nationals could easily plug in a healthy Henry Rodriguez and not miss a beat. A healthy H-Rod might also be very good trade bait if, later in the season, the Nationals find they need something.
There is no nice way to say it, but even healthy I think the Nats view HRod as the 25th man on the 25 man roster. He’s going to be on the hot seat all year and his job security is minimal. I think he has a chance to really impress the brass, but even then I’m not sure how big of a role he will have in 2013. I do, however, stand ready and willing to be happily proved wrong.
Get To Know More Nats!
Starting Rotation: Ross Detwiler, Dan Haren, Jordan Zimmermann
Outfielders: Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Jayson Werth
Catchers: Wilson Ramos, Kurt Suzuki
Infielders: Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa
Bench: Tyler Moore, Roger Bernadina, Chad Tracy
Bullpen: Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen, Zach Duke, Tyler Clippard
Callups: Part I, Part II