If Eduardo Rodriguez has really turned a corner in his schizophrenic career, he'll shut down the Astros this weekend.That's not a bet I'd make with any confidence.E-Rod landed in Toronto on a nice roll, 4-0 with a 3.46 ERA in his previous seven starts, with 49 strikeouts and only 10 walks. He hadn't allowed a home run since April 19.Against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, however, he had nothing. He allowed three home runs, including two to burly rookie Rowdy Tellez. He missed his spots with regularity and was lifted after allowing six runs in five innings, with manager Alex Cora intimating to reporters that he was once again tipping pitches.
For those awaiting the drop of the other shoe, Rodriguez provided plenty of ammo. After allowing five runs in six-plus innings vs. the Rockies last week, Rodriguez has now surrendered 11 runs in his last 11 innings."Just missing in the zone, missing on pitches right where they wanted, those sorts of things are happening right now," Rodriguez told reporters in Canada. "Just missing location and throwing the wrong pitch at the wrong time."Is he tipping again? That seemed like one possibility when Cora visited the mound after consecutive homers in the fourth, though the manager was circumspect."Stuff that I see in the game, just to make sure we make adjustments," Cora told reporters. "They're pretty good at paying attention to details, we are too, just to make sure. We cleaned a few things up. I wasn't upset. Something that I saw. Not body language. It's something, 'Hey, we've been talking about this.' It's not stuff, it's other stuff, baseball stuff….I don't want to say because people are going to start searching stuff."
Sounds like tipping from here, which has vexed Rodriguez throughout his career. But his struggles on Tuesday extended beyond the Jays possibly knowing when an off-speed pitch was coming. Rodriguez also badly missed his location with regularity, especially on Tellez's second homer, when a slider that was supposed to be well off the outside corner instead found the inside one. Tellez launched it into orbit.The homers by the left-handed hitting Tellez continued a troubling trend for Rodriguez, who was dynamite against lefties last year (.234 average), but is letting them hit over .360 this year."We need to start getting lefties out, I think that's the next step with him," Cora told reporters. "He wasn't able to get Tellez out today. Actually the first at-bat he missed one, he hit a changeup for a home run, a slider for a home run, so I think we saw it in the last one, it's been like that the whole season I think, even in spring training. We'll take a look, see where we're at and try to use his stuff in certain spots so he can start doing that."E-Rod's roller-coaster ride means we never quite what to make of him, which is why his next start is so important.Rodriguez will oppose Astros ace Justin Verlander in Houston on Sunday. He could very well be in the same position that Chris Sale found himself this past Sunday, starting the series finale vs. the rampaging Astros looking to avoid a sweep.
The pressure on Rodriguez would be legitimate, and that's a good thing. Let's see what he's made of.Cora is very strategic when it comes to motivation. He generally doesn't call his players out, unless they make an egregious mistake, but Rodriguez is an exception. Cora told Rodriguez to be accountable after he failed to cover first during Game 2 of the Division Series with the Yankees last October. Rodriguez claimed he had slipped, which was clearly false, and Cora let him know it."If you don't break right away, just be accountable," Cora said at the time. "That's all we ask."Cora continued goading the young left-hander during spring training. "It's time for him to step up," he said after a mediocre Grapefruit League start. Cora acknowledges that he pushes Rodriguez publicly because he wants to get the best out of him.He didn't take that approach on Tuesday, instead talking around the tipping and noting that E-Rod needs to improve against lefties. For a guy with so much promise, Rodriguez also owns a 5.43 ERA. Maybe that tells us all we need to know.
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