Fastball Command Helped Jefry Rodriguez
After seeing what righthander Jefry Rodriguez could do in two months of action at high Class A Potomac, the Nationals were impressed enough to place him on the 40-man roster, giving him a ticket to big league camp.
Rodriguez was suspended for 80 games last season after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. The ban came less than two weeks after he had won a Carolina League honor as the pitcher of the week.
The 6-foot-5, 185-pound Rodriguez didn’t pitch more than four innings in a game again until the season finale on Sept. 4, when he allowed three runs in six innings in a win against Frederick.
"Jefry showed signs last year of beginning to realize some of his potential by repeating his arm slot and creating a more consistent delivery,” farm director Mark Scialabba said.
The 24-year-old was part of an all-Dominican rotation at the start of 2017 at Potomac. Despite running up a 4.30 ERA in April, Rodriguez finished with a 3.32 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 19 walks in 57 innings.
"He has a power pitcher’s frame," Scialabba said. "(He's) tall with long limbs and wide shoulders, and he’s very athletic, especially for his size."
Rodriguez, a former amateur infielder who signed in 2012, pitched at low Class A Hagerstown for parts of three seasons. He logged a 5.56 ERA in 183 innings for the Suns, though his 2014 debut season in the South Atlantic League was cut short after he suffered a hairline fracture in his left wrist from a comebacker.
All the while, the Nationals saw Rodriguez’s potential. In 2016, he was a midseason all-star in the SAL.
Rodriguez throws a plus fastball, a curveball that flashes plus and an improved changeup. He has been able to hit the high 90s with his fastball for the past five years, and now it has more movement.
Meanwhile, his changeup has more deception and separation from his fastball.
"He took a step forward last year commanding his fastball, while adding some late sinking life," Scialabba said, "and he was able to maintain his velocity more consistently."
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• Catcher Raudy Read will miss the first 80 games this season because of a suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. The 24-year-old made his big league debut last September.
• The Nationals and Double-A Harrisburg extended their player development contract two more years through 2020. The Senators have been affiliated with the franchise since 1991, when it was the Montreal Expos.