OAKLAND—It took two decades for Rick Rodriguez to get another shot at the big leagues, and this time he must work much harder than just throwing the ball.
The Athletics had a postseason coaching shuffle, which started when pitching coach Curt Young decided not to return to Oakland. Young landed as the new pitching coach of the Red Sox, and bullpen coach Ron Romanick got the A's pitching coach job. This opened a spot for Rodriguez—known as RickyRod—to move into the big league bullpen.
"He'll bring a lot to the bullpen," farm director Keith Lieppman said. "You have to be a psychologist down there. You have to talk to those guys about their frustrations. He understands the mental part of the game, and he pays a lot of attention to the individual players.
"Most of our pitchers come back and say he put them in a position to succeed. He'll take whatever is given to him and max it out. He'll support Romanick."
Rodriguez spent 10 seasons as pitching coach at Triple-A Sacramento, overseeing the assortment of young arms that passed through the system. In 2003, he served as manager at high Class A Modesto and led the team to the California League playoffs. He was originally drafted by the A's in 1981 and spent two seasons with the big league team, later pitching for the Indians and Giants.
"I feel extremely fortunate to be with Oakland," Rodriguez said. "I live about a half-hour away from the Rivercats' stadium. I live in my hometown, and I've been able to see my own home most every night. If I wasn't moving to Oakland, Sacramento is the next best thing."
Rodriguez has developed a reputation as a hard worker, which is part of the job with modern coaching staffs, as they scour scouting reports and watch film to catch every little point that could help win a ballgame.
He has worked with both Romanick and manager Bob Geren in the past. He helped Romanick institute the throwing program that the A's have credited with helping to build arm strength for several pitchers. And he served as pitching coach when Geren managed in Sacramento before moving to the majors.
"It's all been very exciting," Rodriguez said. "I was home when Bob called to tell me I got the job. I gave my son the thumbs up. The whole family was very excited."
• Longtime Sacramento manager Tony DeFrancesco departed to take a Triple-A managing job with the Astros, opening a spot for Darren Bush to take over with the Rivercats. Scott Emerson will replace Rodriguez as the Cats' pitching coach, and Todd Steverson will serve as hitting coach. Steverson was the big league A's first-base coach before the staff shuffling.
• The A's signed Dominican outfielder Vicmal de la Cruz. Lieppman said the highly sought 16-year-old made a big impression in early workouts.