Henry Rodriguez has unbridled potential: an explosive 100 mph fastball and a devastating compliment of a curveball and a changeup. Yet, after a frustrating string of appearances, blown saves and wildness, plus an injury to his right index finger, Rodriguez looked again like the pitcher who threw a National League-high 14 wild pitches in 2011.
As he rehabs his strained finger in Class AA Harrisburg, Rodriguez said he has improved. His finger, which he injured when he slammed it into a bathroom door in early June, is better and thankfully nothing broke in it.
“Good,” he said in Spanish of his rehab. “I think I’m almost at 100 percent and better than when I pitched over there [with the Nationals]. I think with one more appearance I’ll be ready.”
In six appearances in the minors since landing on the disabled list on June 7, Rodriguez has thrown six scoreless innings and allowed no hits. He did, however, walk five batters – four during his four appearances in Class AAA Syracuse, a sign of the uncontrolled Rodriguez. In Harrisburg, on consecutive days pitched, he walked only one batter.
Rodriguez shrugged off the walks and said he is making improvements. He hit 96 and 97 mph consistently on the scoreboard radar gun at Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg on Thursday night against the Altoona Curve, though that seemed a little slow based on the extremely loud pop of the ball in the catcher’s mitt. Batters seemed overwhelmed by his fastball.
In spring training, Rodriguez looked like he had turned a corner, controlling his velocity and location and allowing no runs in nine innings. He always had the stuff to be a closer and he had found the control to be one. Manager Davey Johnson gave him that role after Drew Storen’s injury and, to start with, Rodriguez looked capable until his control started unraveling. He then blew three saves and it could have been more had Johnson not hooked him. His ERA ballooned 5.14.
“It was the mechanics,” Rodriguez said Thursday. “I have been working on my mechanics and getting back to the point where I was when I started the season. These are things that happen. It’s hard to control my velocity. I try hard to control the speed and being around the strike zone.”
For now, he said he’s ready to come back to the Nationals when needed.
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