DENVER — A pitcher usually comes away with a few souvenirs from his first appearance on a big league mound. Dereck Rodriguez smiled as he looked back into his locker late Tuesday night and added up the baseballs.
“I’ve got like four,” he said.
It was an eventful night for a man who has taken a winding road to the big leagues. Rodriguez, the son of Hall-of-Famer Ivan Rodriguez, pitched 3 1/3 promising innings in an 11-4 loss to the Rockies and contributed an RBI double to deep right. But he also left in an unfortunate way. A 108 mph liner off Ian Desmond’s bat ended the rookie’s night earlier than planned and left him with a welt on his right shin.
“That’s the way the game goes,” he said, shrugging.
The good news, on a night when there wasn’t much for the Giants, was that an X-ray came back negative. The Giants expect Rodriguez to be available this weekend after his arm recovers from a lengthy and rushed debut, and with the way he pitched, he isn’t going anywhere at the moment, even with the team in desperate need of fresh arms.
The 25-year-old converted outfielder gave up four runs but only one was earned. He struck out four, relying on a fastball that hit 95 repeatedly and generated 10 swinging strikes. He walked just one, showing the command that was his calling card in the minors.
“He looked poised and showed some good stuff,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “A good fastball with some good secondary pitches.”
Bochy hoped to ride his new right-hander a bit longer, but Rodriguez could feel his leg cramping as he took warm-up pitches following the liner. Bochy told him he had done enough.
Rodriguez took over in the top of the second when Jeff Samardzija was pulled with right shoulder tightness. He spent most his life dreaming of debuting as an outfielder, and in recent years has likely dreamed of throwing a game’s first pitch. Nowhere in the plan did it call for Rodriguez to run in from the outfield bullpen and hurry his warm-up throws in front of 27,000 fans, but he said that actually helped with the nerves. He had no time to think about what he was about to do.
“I think that was the best way,” he said.
Rodriguez has spent most his life in MLB ballparks. He visited Coors Field 14 years ago when his father played here. But Tuesday night, he didn’t have much time to soak it in. He just went to work.
“I was a little nervous there the first pitch,” he said. “But it was fun.”