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Chris Rodriguez Returns With Purpose



After sitting out all of 2018 because of a stress reaction in his lower back and most of 2019 because of surgery to repair a stress fracture in his back, Chris Rodriguez was poised for a breakout 2020 before the coronavirus wiped out the entire minor league schedule.

But the 22-year-old righthander made the most of a lost season, throwing about 40 innings at the team’s alternate training site, another 20-25 innings at instructional league and re-establishing himself as a top pitching prospect.

“He is light years ahead of where he was last year,” Angels minor league pitching coordinator Buddy Carlyle said. “He was hurt, but he’s been healthy all year and gained so much mound time. It’s hard to grow when you’re not pitching in games, but he’s grown mentally and physically.”

Rodriguez, a 2016 fourth-round pick out of Miami's Monsignor Pace High, was added to the 40-man roster on Nov. 20, protecting him from the Rule 5 draft.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Rodriguez has a tantalizing four-pitch mix consisting of a four-seam fastball that averages 94 mph and touches 97 with late movement, a wipeout slider at 87-91 mph, a big overhand curveball that he throws in the mid 80s and an 89 mph changeup with fading action that might be his best pitch.

Rodriguez showed improved command and confidence in his slider at instructional league and was able to stay out of the middle of the zone with his fastball for the most part.

He spent the summer learning how to sequence pitches and how he can manipulate his pitches to create different movement.

Rodriguez was kept on a normal work schedule throughout the summer and fall and did not miss an appearance, another sign that the injuries that derailed him earlier in his career are behind him.

Rodriguez has matured physically and gained a better feel for his body and his delivery over the past year.

The Angels believe Rodriguez, who will likely open the 2021 season at Double-A, has the stuff, command, work ethic and makeup to blossom into a front-of-the-rotation starter.

ANGEL FOOD

— The Angels added outfielder Brandon Marsh to the 40-man roster along with Rodriguez.

Nick Madrigal Danielshirleygetty

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