Over the past month, it’s as if two different Henry Rodriguez’s have thrown for the Nationals. At times, he’s a flamethrowing reliever, a 6-foot, 220-pound pitcher who can overpower batters with a 100-mph fastball and is capable of striking out all the batters he faces.
But, much like he has his entire career, the Venezuela native can struggle mightily with control. He’ll toss wild pitches low and to the backstop. He’ll walk batters he shouldn’t. He’ll show immense ability in one appearance and display head-shaking control issues the next.
“I think it’s sometimes you think about too many things,” Rodriguez said in his native Spanish. “You don’t realize what you’re doing wrong when you’re searching so much for how to improve. I kept working, watching video and working, and it’s all about constantly working. At least, I work with Julian [Martinez], the bullpen catcher and every day I work with him. I work with him and do my part, and if he sees something he reminds me how I was throwing before.”
Velocity has always come natural to Rodriguez. He said has worked hard to develop it but he admits control is tougher to master. Neck spasms that landed him on the disabled list in April aren’t bothering him any more, he said.
After being shelved this spring to work on his control, Rodriguez appeared to have a better grasp of his ability through the early stretch of this season. By late May, his improvement was rewarded with increased trust in crucial situations and a setup role late in games.
But over the past month, it has been a return to his erratic form. His ERA ballooned from 2.05 in early July to 4.56 two weeks ago. He’d follow up one good outing with a five-run, three-walk one, as he did against Florida on July 28.
Over the past three appearances, however, Rodriguez hasn’t allowed an earned run and walked only one batter. He may have gotten a grasp of his control — again.
“I don’t know how to say it,” Rodriguez said of his control issues. “Maybe, a small dip, dropoff but now, thank God, I’ve been able to improve.