The Case For Luis Rodriguez To Play More
It’s no secret that I’ve been a fan of Luis Rodriguez for a while, and I was pretty thrilled when he made the roster. So, obviously, I enjoyed the end of last night’s game a little bit more since it was Rodriguez who had the great at-bat to win it.
I’d also like to suggest that we should see more of Rodriguez in the line-up going forward. No, I don’t think he should play everyday, as I realize the infield is crowded with guys who have better resumes than Rodriguez does. And no, I don’t think he’s going to repeat his 2010 season line from Charlotte in the majors any time soon. I do think, however, that Rodriguez possesses a somewhat interesting skillset, and he offers one thing that none of the other guys who play second or third bring to the table – a little bit of power.
He’s diminutive in size, but Rodriguez has more oomph in his bat than is often assumed. Last night, you saw him jump on an off-speed pitch from Camp and crush it down the right field line – he just got out in front of it and hit it foul. The winning hit was hit to the warning track in right-center field, so even though it officially went down as a single, that was an extra base kind of hit. Despite his pedigree as a 5’9 utility infielder, Rodriguez is not a slap hitter. Of the nine balls he’s put in play this year, only one was a ground ball, because he’s taking a pretty decent cut up there at the plate.
Chone Figgins is fast, Jack Wilson is better defensively, and Adam Kennedy… well, people seem to like him as a teammate. There are reasons for all of these guys to play, but realistically, the one who might have a future in Seattle is Rodriguez. Even though Figgins is signed through 2013, this doesn’t seem like a marriage that is going to last. The M’s had a chance to ship him out last winter and declined, but I doubt that they’ll be all that attached to him the next time a team calls and offers to take most of that contract off their hands. Wilson and Kennedy are just stop-gap solutions until Dustin Ackley is ready to take over at second base, and at this point of their careers, both are looking at each year as if it could be their last.
With a good 2011 season, Rodriguez could actually earn himself a real job on this team going forward. He’s only 30 and he’s ideally suited for the reserve infield role as a switch-hitter who can play all three spots without much of a problem. He doesn’t have the entitlement thing of a career starter who might not like getting moved around the diamond or getting irregular playing time – Rodriguez is the kind of guy who would be thrilled with 300 plate appearances a year.
The M’s will probably need a guy who can play second base and hit right-handed for the next few years, as Ackley still struggles against southpaws. They also need an infielder besides Justin Smoak who can hit the ball with some authority, and Rodriguez is the one guy from the cabal of utility infielders on the roster who can do that. This year is an opportunity for the M’s to find out what they have in different guys, and Rodriguez should be one of the guys who is getting a longer look.
There’s still room for Wilson and Kennedy to play some, but perhaps those two shouldn’t share second base exclusively. Perhaps Chone Figgins could use more frequent days off, if for no other reason than to give the fan base a breather from having to watch him play. Perhaps when a fly ball guy takes the hill, Brendan Ryan can start the game on the bench and the team can put out a better offensive unit, sacrificing a little defense on the infield. There are ways to get Luis Rodriguez some playing time, and I’m hoping Eric Wedge takes advantage of those opportunities.