With the 2022 regular season over, it is that time for us to go back and take a look at the players who appeared for the Texas Rangers this season.
Today, we look at relief pitcher Yerry Rodriguez.
In my mind, Yerry Rodriguez and Ronny Henriquez are associated with each other. They have similar names. They are both righthanded pitchers who were signed out of the Dominican Republic for relatively small bonuses. They both pitched for the (then) low-A Hickory Crawdads in 2019 as part of a pitching staff that was deep in interesting arms.*
* The 2019 Crawdads pitching staff had Hans Crouse and Cole Winn as the big names. But also appearing for Hickory (in something other than a rehab stint), along with Rodriguez and Henriquez, were Nick Snyder, John King, and Jake Latz, all of whom have made the majors, as well as Ricky Vanasco, Cole Uvila, Lucas Jacobsen, Daniel Robert and Kelvin Gonzalez, all of whom have pretty decent chances of making the show one day.
There are plenty of differences — Henriquez is tiny and throws really hard, while Rodriguez is 6’2” and compliments his fastball with a changeup. Rodriguez was signed two years later than your normal J-2 guy, so even though he’s three years older than Henriquez, he wasn’t Rule 5 eligible until just a year before Henriquez was. And Henriquez was dealt to the Minnesota Twins this past offseason, along with Isiah Kiner-Falefa, in the deal that brought Mitch Garner to Texas, so its easier for me to separate them in my head now.
One more commonality is that both players made the majors in 2022, though which one you want to think of as having made it first will depend on your point of view.
The bulk of Yerry Rodriguez’s professional career has been spent as a starting pitcher, including in the first part of the 2021 season. Strong numbers for the AA Frisco Roughriders earned him a promotion to AAA Round Rock at the beginning of August, 2021, and he joined the Express rotation initially. The Pacific Coast League treated Yerry rudely, however, and after four starts that saw Yerry allow 20 runs in 15.2 IP, he moved to the bullpen in what appears, at this point, to be a permanent move.
Rodriguez never really appeared to be in the mix for the 2022 Opening Day roster, even with rosters being expanded the first month to compensate for the lockout-induced shortened spring training. He struggled initially for Round Rock, allowing 6 runs and 13 hits in 7.1 IP over 8 outings while walking more than he struck out in April, and then had back-to-back three run appearances in mid-May. As of the Ides of May, Yerry had an 8.78 ERA, with opponents hitting .371/.431/.597 against him. That’s not good.
That was Yerry’s nadir, however. From that point until the end of the minor league season, Yerry threw 45.2 IP over 37 games, putting up a 2.96 ERA. He struck out an impressive 61 batters out of 196 faced in that span, but was a bit walk-prone and homer-prone (24 walks and 7 HRs allowed). Nonetheless, it appears that Yerry turned a corner after his bad start to the year.
The Rangers called Yerry up twice in 2022, both for very brief stints. The first time Yerry came up was in mid-August, when he was called up to take Matt Moore’s spot on the active roster when Moore went on the paternity list. He didn’t make an appearance, however, and was optioned two days later when Kohei Arihara was brought up to make a spot start.
Yerry’s return to the majors didn’t occur until October, when, in advance of the Rangers’ final series of the year, a four game in three day set against the Yankees, Yerry was called up to give the Rangers a fresh arm in the bullpen. When he didn’t appear in the first three games, it was looking like he’d be waiting until 2023 to actually take a major league mound.
But with Texas up 4-2, Tony Beasley brought Yerry Rodriguez into the game to start the seventh inning, in relief of starter Glenn Otto. Yerry got a strikeout, a groundout, gave up a single and a wild pitch, and then ended the inning with a 4-3 groundout. He picked up a hold for his performance, and now has the MLB record for the lowest career ERA (0.00) which he shares with...I don’t know how many people. A few, anyway.
Rodriguez is listed as having one option remaining, though I think he may qualify for a fourth option due his limited amount of time on full season rosters and the 2020 season being wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. He could end up, like Henriquez last year, being moved in the offseason, both due to the team looking to make upgrades and due to the overall 40 man squeeze.
If Rodriguez is still here come spring training, though, he’ll be one of the guys fighting for a bullpen spot on the Opening Day roster. If he doesn’t make the team, he’ll be much needed depth in Round Rock, waiting for the call.