SAN FRANCISCO — Exactly four months ago, Dereck Rodriguez jogged in from the visiting bullpen at Coors Field and quickly got his arm loose. Rodriguez had dreamt of the moment his whole life, but his debut came in an unexpected way. Jeff Samardzija’s shoulder started barking and Rodriguez was called upon as a long reliever. He showed enough — a 95 mph fastball, a four-pitch repertoire that got 10 swinging strikes in limited action — that manager Bruce Bochy wondered what he had in the rookie right-hander.
The staff was intrigued, and five days later, Rodriguez made his first start. We now know that was the first of many.
This was a second straight season of disappointment, but in Rodriguez, the confident son of a Hall of Famer, the Giants have found the the shiniest of silver linings. The 26-year looks like a foundational piece.
“It’s been a tough year for all of us losing so many players, but as I said so many times, you look at the bright spots when that happens, and certainly, he’s been that,” Bochy said Saturday morning.
Rodriguez was unable to shine on his way out. His final start lasted just three innings, and he was charged with five earned runs on six hits in a 10-6 loss. Rodriguez lit up at the end of August when asked about pitching through September for the first time, and perhaps all those innings caught up with him in the end. The converted outfielder was in uncharted territory, and he gave up nine earned over his final two appearances.
“September is a whole different animal, but it’s fun,” he said. “You’ve got teams battling and every game you go out there and it makes a difference. Watching that makes you want to be a part of that.”
Rodriguez wasn’t able to harm the Dodgers Saturday, but all his rough final outing did was raise his ERA to 2.81, which still ranks him seventh among NL pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. He posted a 1.13 WHIP, held opposing hitters to a .223 average, and allowed just nine homers in 118 1/3 innings.
“This isn’t one he should think about,” Bochy said of the finale. “He should look at the body of work.”
Rodriguez seemed like he would, but he’s also looking ahead. He said he will not take his rotation spot for granted. It’s back to the gym in Miami, with, among others, Pablo Sandoval, who helped convince Rodriguez to become a Giant in the first place.
The rookie said he’s hoping to make a postseason run next year. It’s something he mentioned a couple of times in his final interview of the year. He also said several times that he’s proud of how this all worked out. This was not exactly what he expected when that bullpen door swung open back in May.
“I really thought I would just be up here for a couple of outings out of the bullpen,” Rodriguez said. “I did my thing and changed a lot of peoples’ minds, so I’m super happy.”