Blue Jays – Yariel Rodríguez faces an early test in his pro career against the San Diego Padres

Toronto Blue Jays Yariel Rodriguez
Photo credit:© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Shushkewich
8 days ago
Last Saturday, the Toronto Blue Jays made a change to their pitching rotation for the first time this season. Facing the Colorado Rockies, the Jays called up right-hander Yariel Rodríguez from triple-A Buffalo and had him start the game instead of Bowden Francis, who followed the Cuban product in the game to eat up bulk innings.
The move made sense on paper, as Francis has been unable to find his Spring Training form in the rotation through his first two turns. He was tagged for seven earned against Houston when the Jays were no-hit by Astros right-hander Ronel Blanco and later allowed five earned against the Yankees in his second start, going just three innings as he struggled with his command while allowing a home run to Giancarlo Stanton.
On the other side, Rodríguez had a late spring training ramp-up due to back spasms but the 27-year-old was likely to begin the campaign in triple-A after not pitching competitively last year outside of the World Baseball Classic as he awaited designation from the MLB to become classified as an international free agent while also waiting to be dropped from his previous team, the Chunichi Dragons, from the Nippon Professional Baseball league.

Diving into Blue Jays right-hander Rodríguez

Signed to a five-year deal this past offseason, Rodríguez was outstanding in his two outings down in triple-A. Facing the Worcester Red Sox both times (the Boston Red Sox affiliate), the Blue Jays pitcher allowed just one hit and three walks through 6 1/3 combined innings while striking out ten batters, leveraging his fastball, slider, and split-finger to generate 13 whiffs across both outings.
In his debut against Colorado, Rodríguez went 3 2/3 innings and allowed four hits, two walks, and one earned run in his debut while striking out six batters, generating 12 swings and misses on the day. He started the day by getting Charlie Blackmon to fly out to left field before getting Ezequiel Tover to strike out swinging for his first big league strikeout, tossing a clean first inning. The only mistake in his outing was a high slider he hung on Brenton Doyle, who deposited the offering over the left-field wall for a solo home run.
For Rodríguez, the outing was beneficial for the right-hander to get his feet wet in the big leagues, taking the mound in front of a home crowd while facing a team that hadn’t produced much as of late at the plate, although the 12 spot the Rockies put up the day before shifted the momentum towards the visitors before Rodríguez’s start.
With the current schedule and probable pitcher schedule for the rotation, Rodríguez is currently slated to take the mound against the San Diego Padres tonight for his second MLB start, a strong team that is full of talented players up and down the lineup.

Looking at the Padres lineup

The Padres head into the series with an 11-10 record in the NL West, with the club returning from a six-game road trip where they went 4-2 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers, winning both series.
San Diego’s rotation is without Blake Snell (left via free agency) and Yu Darvish, who went on the IL earlier this week. It appears that the Padres will be putting forth knuckleballer Matt Waldron tonight, a potential bullpen game tomorrow, and then facing former Jays prospect Joe Musgrove on Sunday to round out the series. This could change given the off-day the Padres had yesterday but right now, these are the probable pitchers.
On the lineup side, the Padres possess some power threats up and down the lineup even with Juan Soto being traded this past offseason.
Collectively, the team is ranked tied for third in home runs (24), sixth in OPS (.751), SLG (.418), and average (.258), and eighth in OBP (.333), ranking in the top ten in most offensive categories. The Padres possess a 4.4 fWAR, ranking second in the Major Leagues with a 113 wRC+ and a league-leading 109 runs.
The team is getting production from their top stars Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, and Jake Cronenworth while Eguy Rosario leads the team in OPS (.975). Tatis Jr. boasts a .500 SLG with a .874 OPS and a team-leading five home runs while Blue Jays fans will also get to see top prospect Jackson Merrill in the lineup, who is putting the ball in play at a .333/.405/.439 slash line and a .844 OPS with eight walks and four extra-base hits. The one player who is struggling is former Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts, who has just 16 hits on the season (.200) and has hit to the tune of a .536 OPS with 13 strikeouts.

Rodríguez and how he stacks up against the Padres

Considering Rodríguez has just one Major League start under his belt, he is being thrown into the fire early in his career by having to face the Padres on their home turf.
He will be facing a team that owns a .297 BAbip and possesses experienced bats up and down the lineup that boast extra-base power from the right side of the batter’s box, with Profar being the lone switch hitter and Cronenworth, Merrill, and Tyler Wade hitting from the left side. This season, the Padres have been hitting groundballs at a 46.2% rate (ranked sixth) and have been putting the ball in play up the middle at a 38.0% rate, which is ranked fifth in the league.
While the sample size is small for Rodríguez, in his start against the Rockies, he produced a 37.5% ground ball rate and a 25.0% rate in regards to line drive and fly ball percentages. He did get hit hard at a 50.0 hardhit% with a .429 BAbip against the Rockies (again, small sample size), so he will be in tough against a Padres squad that has been putting the ball in play with regularity and generating runs at a high rate to begin the season although ranking towards the bottom of the league in hardhit% (24.2% – ranked 29th).
The benefit for Rodríguez is his unfamiliarity, as many teams likely don’t have the tape or extensive background info on the right-hander. He pitched for parts of six seasons in the Cuban National Series before taking his talents over to Japan for three seasons, splitting time between the rotation and bullpen for the Dragons. He put on a strong display at the World Baseball Classic for Team Cuba but that was limited to just over seven innings, which is not a strong sample when combined with his Spring Training and his three professional starts split between triple-A and against Colorado.
For Rodríguez, he will likely be on the mound for about 60-80 pitches, as the right-hander has not thrown more than 68 pitches in a single outing this year. Similar to last Saturday, Bowden Francis will most likely follow the right-hander so both pitchers eat up a bulk of the innings although after yesterday’s off day, almost all of the bullpen arms should be good to go starting today. The Blue Jays will turn to Rodríguez as they try to stay over the .500 mark on the West Coast, taking the Padres on a three-game series this weekend.

Tyson Shushkewich is a contributor at the Blue Jays Nation. He can be followed on X or Instagram at Tyson_MLB or reached via email at Tyson_MLB@hotmail.com

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