There isn’t a Dodger fan out there who doesn’t absolutely love Paco Rodriguez.
From the moment the 22-year-old Miami native first set foot in Dodger Stadium he has been nothing short of exceptional; but let’s face it, he is just plain wore out. Who wouldn’t be after appearing in 76 games and tossing 54.1 innings during the regular season and two of the three post-season games the Dodgers have played – in which he has been absolutely rocked, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits in 0.2 innings for an atrocious post-season ERA of 27.00.
When you consider that a little over a year ago Rodriguez was pitching at the University of Florida and was the very first player from the 2012 MLB draft to make it to the big leagues, it’s easy to see why the kid is exhausted – he has never done anything like this before in his life. And while Rodriguez was basically unhittable during most of the 2013 season and a key component to the Dodgers historic success this year, there is simply nothing left in his tank and continuing to run him out there will do nothing more than potentially damage his golden left arm.
Although Rodriguez ended the regular season with a record of 3-4 and a phenomenal ERA of 2.32, one need look no further than his final 10 games of the season (September 4 through September 28) to see that he has hit the wall. During that time he allowed 3 earned runs on 7 hits in only 5 innings pitched. But what absolutely jumps out at you is the he walked 5 batters during that time while striking out 6.
Paco isn’t the first young Dodger reliever to run out of gas towards the end of the season. Who can forget young Cory Wade, who former Dodger manager Joe Torre seemed to use every night during the 2008 season. Cory pitched 71.1 innings that year and had an outstanding 2.27 ERA. Unfortunately, Wade eventually broke down and suffered a shoulder injury that required off-season surgery and he was never the same after that. Wade was eventually traded to the Rays, Yankees, Rays, Cubs, Rays and Mets but has yet to return to the major leagues and most likely never will.
What happened to Cory Wade was tragic and there is no doubt whatsoever that it was the result of Torre over using the (then) 25-year-old right-hander very early in his career. Torre did the same thing with Ramon Troncoso, who pitched 82 innings in 73 games 2009 and who also eventually wore out, however it took a little longer. Troncoso was eventually traded to the White Sox where, after a series of arm injuries, was delegated to the minors and has yet to return to the majors as well. It should come as no surprise that Torre’s protégée Don Mattingly would employ the same tactics.
The point here of course is that Paco Rodriguez has simply gone as far as he can go in his first full season in the majors (he appeared in 11 games as a September call-up in 2012) and continuing to use the former Gator in the post-season will most likely end with bad results. Unfortunately, it may also end with an arm injury… if it hasn’t already.