Richard Rodriguez is Flying Under the Radar in Pittsburgh

Richard Rodriguez is Flying Under the Radar in Pittsburgh

by May 21, 2021 1 comment

Through the first two months of the season, Richard Rodriguez has been one of baseball’s best relievers. As the Pirates have gotten off to a 17-24 start, Rodriguez has been a bright spot. Following a strong ending to 2020, he has been even better this season. As the Pirates’ pitching has struggled at times, Rodriguez has been one of their most consistent pieces.

In 17 appearances this season, Rodriguez has posted a 0.53 ERA. The Pirates closer has also struck out 14 batters and only allowed six hits. So far in 2021, Rodriguez’s excellent control has been key to his success. Dating back to last season, he has thrived in the closer role and converted 10 of his 11 save opportunities. Despite his impressive numbers, Rodriguez is flying under the radar in Pittsburgh.

Over the past two years, Rodriguez has been a weapon out of the Pirates bullpen. In the shortened 2020 campaign, he posted a 2.70 ERA in 24 appearances. After struggling in 2019, the 31-year-old was able to bounce back and has been on an upward trend. In that span, his walk rate has improved, and he has only allowed three home runs. On a Pirates roster that has undergone a lot of change, Rodriguez has been a constant presence.

Additionally, this year he has been nearly automatic with a different approach. After throwing his slider a career-high 27.3 percent last year, Rodriguez has relied on his fastball in 2021. Entering play on Monday, only two pitchers had thrown more innings with a lower ERA. Although his slider has been deadly, his fastball has lead to his early-season success.

Expectations for the Remainder of 2021?

While Rodriguez’s fastball has been hard to hit, it tops out at about 93 MPH. If batters adjust to his new approach, he will have to mix in his slider, which is equally effective. If the Pirates closer can continue his impressive start, he will be a popular commodity at the trade deadline. The Pittsburgh closer could net a decent return as he won’t be a free agent until 2024.

Regardless of how the season plays out, Rodriguez has been a bright spot. The Pirates don’t have to trade him, but they will most certainly get offers in the next few months. Over the last two seasons, he has shown that he can thrive in high-leverage situations. If he can continue his recent success, he may not fly under the radar for much longer.

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