SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As many Giants fans panicked over the polarizing hire, Dereck Rodriguez smiled and picked up his phone. On the other end was his new manager.
It was the first time Gabe Kapler the manager had talked with Rodriguez the pitcher, on the night the Giants announced the news. It was far from the first time the two had communicated, though.
“He used to go over to our house to eat when he first got called up, it was cool,” said the son of Ivan Rodriguez. “2000, 2001. I remember eating with him.”
That would make young Dereck 8 or 9 in Kapler’s third and fourth years in the majors, his first and second with Pudge’s Rangers.
Dereck Rodriguez said his father and Kapler have kept in touch over the years, as the little kid running around the house turned into a long-haired mound presence competing for a rotation spot.
In Rodriguez’s mind, Kapler looked “exactly how he looks now. It’s pretty impressive. Honestly he might be stronger now than when he was a player,” he said of the former Crossfit champion.
Ivan approved of the new manager, and Kapler smiled as he tried to recall those Arlington dinners.
“I remember going to Pudge’s house, just being in awe of the house and the cars. It was a lot,” Kapler said Friday at Scottsdale Stadium. “Pudge was at the time if not the best player in baseball, then top five, and hands-down the best catcher in baseball. … I do remember Dereck being around.”
Dereck is again around after an offseason in the Puerto Rico Winter League. A wild card for a rotation spot and likely to start the year in Sacramento, Rodriguez said he hasn’t added to his arsenal, just working on placing his pitches better.
He hadn’t started digging in with the new pitching-coach staff, but he does appreciate the youth and communication. Pitching coach Andrew Bailey is 35, assistant pitching coach Ethan Katz is 36 and director of pitching Brian Bannister is 38.
“It’s a little bit different, but I like it,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like they can still be playing.”