OAKLAND – It’s no secret that Dereck Rodriguez is the son of legendary catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. But his father isn’t the reason he’s won his last four games and has a 5-1 record and 2.72 ERA as a rookie. Pudge isn’t the reason Dereck is able to mix mid- and low-90-mile-per-hour fastballs with a 75-mile-per-hour curveball that drops from a batter’s eyes to their knees.
While Rodriguez said growing up around the major leagues helped him tremendously, he’s benefited more directly from another Hall-of-Fame catcher: Buster Posey. Rodriguez said Posey has helped his pitch selection and keep him relaxed on the mound.
“Posey is the one that puts down the fingers,” Rodriguez said. “I just throw down what he (says). I feel like me and him have a good relationship, we understand each other and he’s helped me out a lot this year.”
The 26-year-old rookie is somewhat of an anomaly. He was drafted straight out of high school by the Twins in 2011 as an outfielder. Rodriguez struggled as a hitter, batting just .216 in 342 at-bats in mostly rookie baseball leagues before he transitioned to pitching in 2014. When the Giants signed him this summer, he said he was determined to get off on the right foot.
“I felt like it was a fresh start, so I wanted to make a good impression in spring training and start the season strong in (Triple-A) Sacramento,” Rodriguez said. My goals that I set for myself this offseason to this season are doing well.”
Despite having less than four full years of experience as a pitcher, Rodriguez said he rarely gets bothered on the mound.
“I feel real calm,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t let a lot get to me. The only person that really gets to me is myself.”
When he does run into trouble, Rodriguez said he treats his mistakes as part of the learning experience.
“I trust my stuff,” Rodriguez said. “I just go after (hitters). I think it was the second inning, first pitch right down the middle to (A’s designated hitter Khris) Davis. He put a good swing on it, hit a double. You know, it’s a learning curve. I didn’t really let that second inning get to me. Buster helped me calm down a lot back there.”
Posey said he had a sense of Rodriguez’s poise when he caught him against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a spring training game.
“I thought that he didn’t seem rattled out there on a big league field facing the Diamondbacks, pretty much their A-lineup,” Posey said. “He’s pretty much had that poise every time he’s been out there.”
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