SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Around this time a year ago, Dereck Rodriguez walked into the Giants' clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium and found he no longer had a locker.
Rodriguez was one of the first cuts the staff made in 2018, but he dominated in a cameo late in the spring, worked his way up to the Majors by the end of May, and became a fixture in the rotation the rest of the way. If the Giants are to go anywhere in 2019, it's hard to imagine them doing so without Rodriguez duplicating that success.
To repeat his rookie season, Rodriguez knows he'll need to give the NL a different look.
"They make adjustments and I'll make adjustments and they're going to make some more adjustments and I'll make more adjustments," he said, smiling.
One was on display Saturday, when Rodriguez pumped breaking balls to the Chicago Cubs in 3 2/3 innings that were much sharper than the line score showed. He gave up three runs, but all came in a rally consisting entirely of seeing-eye singles. Rodriguez struck out five.
"(I'm) just throwing my off-speed pitches behind in the count more, and more consistently," he said. "That's pretty much what I've been doing so far, pounding the zone and trying to get outs quicker. You don't necessarily have to nip the corners. Go after them, get them out of there quick, and be on to the next one."
In an era where front offices are focused on third-time-through penalties, working quickly might actually be a huge benefit for Rodriguez. He was much better as games went on, holding hitters to a .559 OPS the second time through the order and .596 the third time.
Rodriguez threw more fastballs later in the season, cutting back on his curveball, but he hopes mixing it up will allow him to hit a goal: 200 innings. It appears the Giants will give him a shot to get an early start on reaching that milestone, after initially saying Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez could start the season in the minors to limit their innings.
"Right now, he's part of the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said Saturday. "That's where he stands. I think he's been throwing the ball well."
That would appear to lock the Giants into a rotation of Rodriguez, Madison Bumgarner, Derek Holland, Drew Pomeranz and Jeff Samardzija in some order, but Bochy said they will continue to evaluate their options and keep it competitive. Regardless, this is a much better spot than Rodriguez found himself in a year ago.
"I'm still here," he said. "That's the biggest point -- I'm still here."