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Paco Rodriguez: The most underrated Dodger?

8/9/2013

LOS ANGELES -- You could run through a lot of names for National League Rookie of the Year before you landed on Paco Rodriguez, but the Dodgers have leaned heavily on their young reliever.

Rodriguez, who was the first player from the 2012 draft to reach the major leagues last season, has emerged as the team's primary setup man. When closer Kenley Jansen was given the day off Monday in St. Louis, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly turned to Rodriguez for the save.

He got it, by pitching two innings and not allowing a base runner.

Rodriguez has been so reliable -- he has a 1.60 ERA since May 1 and opponents are batting .123 off him -- that Mattingly has found it difficult to avoid going to him, particularly when a team's best left-handed hitters are due up. Rodriguez has appeared in 56 games, something of a concern given that he was pitching on a college schedule -- four games a week -- a little over a year ago.

Rodriguez pitched in just 21 minor-league games before joining the Dodgers last August. Two weeks ago, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt asked Rodriguez to cut back on his throwing routine before games.

"It's crazy. I've gotten to a point where I have coaches talking to me. I've asked players what they do when their body is wearing down, because sometimes you wake up the next day and you're dragging," Rodriguez said. "So, I've been talking to the guys to find out what their routines are when that starts to happen."

The two-inning save Monday was the Dodgers' first in more than four years. Mattingly said he and Honeycutt have been concerned for weeks about limiting the workloads of Rodriguez, 22, and Jansen, who has pitched in 57 games.

"It's a little bit of a double-edged sword for us, because you want to control their usage and stay on top of it, but if you have a chance to win a game, it's not like you're going to sit there like, 'Oh well, I'm not going to use him,' " Mattingly said.

Rodriguez is excited about his first trip with the Dodgers to his hometown of Miami later this month. His mother was able to secure 100 tickets from a family friend.

* Hanley Ramirez's jammed right shoulder wasn't well enough for him to return to the lineup Friday, but Mattingly said he may be available to pinch hit and could return during this three-game series.

Here are lineups for Friday night's game:

Tampa Bay

1. Sean Rodriguez LF

2. Ryan Roberts 2B

3. Evan Longoria 3B

4. Wil Myers CF

5. Ben Zobrist RF

6. Yunel Escobar SS

7. James Loney 1B

8. Jose Molina C

9. David Price LHP

Dodgers

1. Mark Ellis 2B

2. Nick Punto SS

3. Adrian Gonzalez 1B

4. Yasiel Puig CF

5. Jerry Hairston Jr. LF

6. Juan Uribe 3B

7. Tim Federowicz C

8. Skip Schumaker RF

9. Chris Capuano LHP