Fernando Rodriguez's 2012 season doesn't look all that great on the surface. He went 2-10. His ERA was 5.37.
But dig a bit deeper, and there's much to like about the right-handed reliever, acquired from the Astros last week in the Jed Lowrie deal. There's Rodriguez's average of more than one strikeout per inning. And then there's his success with inherited runners: only 14 of 56 men who were on base when Rodriguez entered the game scored, and, even more impressive, 17 of 77 over the past two seasons.
"And there are still some who shouldn't have scored," Rodriguez said, echoing every pitcher ever.
A's manager Bob Melvin, provided that statistic, smiled and said, "We'll bring him in with guys on base as much as we can."
Rodriguez, 28, is not, however, assured of a spot in Oakland's bullpen. He has options remaining, and he knows Triple-A Sacramento is a possibility. His goal right now is simple: to get better. He wants to lower that ERA, though, of course, if he makes the A's roster, going from a hitters' park to the Coliseum will help (he says he gave up five homers in Houston that barely cleared the fence). The wins and losses will be helped just by going from baseball's worst team last year to a playoff participant.
The key for Rodriguez, he said, is learning to step back a bit. He is in attack mode all the time and goes after every hitter. He must add a bit of finesse to his game, which features a mid-90s fastball, changeup and a curveball, usually his out pitch. He was scheduled to speak to Roger Clemens about refining his approach before he was traded from Houston; now, he plans to seek out the A's most successful relievers and ask them for tips on when to ease off the pedal.
"My ERA will never be like, 'Oh my God, that guy has done really well,' " Rodriguez said. "I'm a little hard-headed. Instead of pitching, I go after guys, and I get hit sometimes."


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