Roughly five weeks ago, though it seems like an eternity, Mike Clevinger left a ball game with some back soreness. This back soreness turned out to be a pretty serious injury (Grade-2 Teres Major strain) and landed Sunshine on the injured list for quite some time. This event, on top of Corey Kluber’s broken Ulna, leads to some questions about who was going to step up in their place. On an Indians team with a struggling offense who seems to rely solely on their pitching staff, this raised a ton of concern across the fan-base. “The season is over, we’ll be lucky to make the Wild Card” is a quote that I’ve seen far too frequently this season from Tribe fans. Maybe they’re right, maybe all is lost, maybe I’ll truly live in my parent’s basement forever…
“But wait! Wh-….Who’s that?!”, yelled Jose Ramirez through his interpreter. “It’s…It’s…”
It’s a 6-foot-6-inch, 25-year-old Dominican boy! Momma, there’s hope for me yet! That’s right folks, in walks Jefry (“Yefry”) Rodriguez, who has been making his case for a more permanent role in the Indians starting rotation. Rodriguez was added to the Indians as one of the players that Cleveland received from Washington for catcher Yan Gomes on November 30.
If you have not kept up with Jefry’s starts throughout this season, let me fill you in. In his four games with the Indians, Jefry, is 1-2 with a 2.92 ERA, 15 strikeouts, and an outstanding 1.18 WHIP. That is quite the stat-line for a 25-year-old whose original role was to just be called up a few times throughout the year for spot starts here and there when needed. Let’s also not forget about Jefry’s height, which is a major advantage for the Dominican youngster, as it makes his release point that much harder to track on his delivery. He’s been going out every week and forcing outs left and right and blowing a lot of the doubters away!
All of these stats and attributes are great and all, but it begs the question amongst a lot of Tribe fans, and that is, has Jefry Rodriguez earned himself a starting spot for the time being? My answer: Yes.
I have fallen in love with this Dominican sky-scraper in his four starts with the Tribe and for good reason. Right now all that the Indians need is consistency and in each of his four starts Jefry has logged at least five and 2/3 innings, kept the opposing team to three or fewer runs, and allows our bullpen to stay relatively rested. He doesn’t log a ton of strikeouts but he forces pop-ups, ground balls, and most importantly double-plays.
The Indians have always been a “next man up” organization. I know that term is thrown around professional sports a lot, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a city that embodies that saying more than Cleveland. Every year when it seems that all hope is lost, the Indians pull a young prospect up from the best damn farm system in baseball and throw them to the wolves where they simply just thrive. We’ve seen it time and time again in Cleveland with Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley (RIP), Francisco Lindor, and many many more.
Am I sitting here saying that Jefry Rodriquez is the next Francisco Lindor? No, I’m not saying that yet, but I am saying that this kid has tremendous potential. Let’s check in with Terry Francona to see what he has to say about the young pitcher: “He’s obviously a really intelligent, thoughtful kid and he’s not backing down from anybody. With this much inexperience it’s not going to be perfect, but…it’s easy to see the glass is more than half full, and that is a compliment to the kid.”
Francona, in another interview, spoke very highly of Jefry’s talent and development, “He’s got velocity, not ‘swing and miss’ velocity, but he produces a lot of ground balls, and the times he has pitched here [Cleveland] he has pounded the zone really well. Several times he pitched really well, but we just didn’t score.” Francona went on to say, ” He’s really encouraging! His development is just so much fun to watch.”
Now, we all know Tito may be one of the nicest guys in the entire world, but those are some encouraging words that you want to hear from your club’s manager. I think I speak for many Cleveland Indians fans when I say that I fully trust Tito and everything he says about these young players. I also fully trust Tito to develop these young guys, like he has done so successfully with others. I am fully on board the Jefry “The Dominican Sky-Scraper” Rodriguez band-wagon and I’m going to ride it out until the day Kluber gets activated again.
Jiggy’s Prediction: Look for Jefry to “at least” stick with the club until the All-Star Break, and look for him to make his next start (and win) this Friday or Saturday against the worst team in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles.
As always with my articles, I hope you’re able to sit back, relax, have a beer, and enjoy what you read. Keep Hammering & Roll Tribe
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