Orioles right-hander Francisco Rodriguez is still adapting to a new clubhouse and a new role in the bullpen, but manager Buck Showalter said the veteran reliever will play an expanded role down the stretch.
Rodriguez, who had excelled in the closer role for the Brewers when the Orioles traded for him July 24, pitched a scoreless ninth with the game well in hand Sunday in Baltimore’s 10-2 win over the Giants. Rodriguez has seven appearances with the Orioles over his 2 1/2- week stretch with his new team. Four of those outings have come in the seventh inning and just two have come with the lead.
Rodriguez earned the win Wednesday with a scoreless seventh-inning in a tied game before the Orioles scored seven unanswered runs in a 10-3 win over San Diego.
“When you’re pitching in the ninth inning closing games, you’ve got the game on the line and the adrenaline is there,” Rodriguez said. “But when you’re pitching in a blowout game in the seventh or eighth, it’s not the same, but I’m just trying to get adjusted and make adjustments and just trying to build innings and stay focused and try to get it done. It is tough, but I’ve just got to go through it.”
The 31-year-old Rodriguez, who was one of the top closers in the game during his time with the Angels and Mets, said he’s a better pitcher when he gets regular work, but he’s found a way to make adjustments.
“I just have to wait for my opportunity to come and find a way to stay sharp, just throw a little extra when I play catch early, when I go out [and] try to throw a little more off flat ground, get my work in and find a way to stay sharp.”
Showalter said Rodriguez will get more opportunities to pitch in tight games.
“He’s capable of more,” Showalter said. “That’s what we liked about him. His last two or three solid outings have been solid. I don’t call it a luxury. It’s a need. Every club has to have more guys that are capable of pitching. He defends himself well against left-handers. The last 40 or so some-odd games, he’s going to be a piece. I’m glad to have him here. I’m comfortable with him.”
With Jim Johnson entrenched at closer and Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter getting critical late-inning outs, Showalter said Rodriguez’s ability to get left-handers out — he’s held them to a .111 batting average this season — has actually taken more opportunities away from left-handed relievers Brian Matusz and Troy Patton.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez said this is the best bullpen he’d been a member of in his 12-year career.
“It’s the first time I’ve been in a bullpen where we’ve got three lefty guys,” Rodriguez said. “Usually it’s just one or two, but we’ve got a long man [T.J. McFarland] and Patton and Matusz. It gives you a lot of balance and it’s going to make it difficult for the opposing team when we get to the sixth and seventh.”