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Staying Down and Settling In, Rodriguez Finds Comfort In His New Positions

Staying Down and Settling In, Rodriguez Finds Comfort In His New Positions

| On 10, Jun 2014

Who’s on first?

Well for the RubberDucks this year, there have been a couple of guys that have spent some time there. Between Bryan LaHair, Jake Lowery, and Audy Ciriaco they’ve all spent a decent amount of time manning first. There has been one guy though that has stood out among the rest. A player who, prior to this season, has never spent much time playing the position, especially not in pro-ball. The guy is Ronny Rodriguez.

When Rodriguez was signed by the Indians as a non-drafted free agent in 2010, he was originally signed as a shortstop. When the Indians drafted Francisco Lindor in the first round of the 2011 MLB First Year Player Draft, the future of Rodriguez became a bit more complicated. While Rodriguez progressed a stage above Lindor, they’re now both with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks. With two players that play the same position, manager Dave Wallace has had to manage their time together and make sure that they both receive ample playing time.

As a result of Lindor’s presence on the RubberDucks, Rodriguez has been moved around the diamond a bit to try and find more playing time. He started out the season playing some third base, but after the injury to Lowery, Rodriguez tried his hand at first base. For Rodriguez, bouncing between positions has not been something new to him.

“In the Dominican, where I come from,” Rodriguez said. “I was center field when I was younger. Then I played some shortstop. Then when I was in high school I played all the positions. It wasn’t too hard for me.”

Rodriguez has spent most of his time splitting between third base and first base. He spent a good portion of the beginning part of the season at first while Giovanny Urshela manned the hot corner before being called up to Triple-A Columbus. Wallace was happy to move him over to first though. This was a way to add more versatility to his resume for his career.

“He’s fearless over there, and he wants to do it. Not everyone has the ability to go over there and play that and play it that well,” Wallace said.

As Rodriguez continues to improve at his new positions, he also is finding some improvement at the dish as well. To start off the season, Rodriguez was batting a grisly .130/.183/.148 in the month of April. He followed up April with a better month in May where he batted .269/.304/.471 and swatted three home runs, 17 RBI’s along with 12 doubles and two stolen bases. His improvement at the plate could be correlating with how comfortable he is getting at his new positions, but Rodriguez doesn’t necessarily believe that.

“In one point it kind of helps,” Rodriguez said. “In the other point it just matters how much better you can get in the system. That’s the important thing, to get more at-bats. It doesn’t matter as much as to where I play, but getting the at-bats is most important.”

So far in June, Rodriguez is batting .333/.364/.333. He was riding a nine game hitting streak before it was busted on June 8 in the game against the Harrisburg Senators. During that nine game stretch, Rodriguez had batted .462/.500/.577 with four doubles, four RBI’s, two walks and nine strike outs.

“I’m working on my discipline and get more walks. I’m trying to make more good contact,” Rodriguez explained.

The fact that Rodriguez is working on his plate discipline is a big step forward for him. If Rodriguez had a kryptonite, it would be his strike out rate. He tends to swing pretty aggressively at the plate, which can result in a higher home run total, but it can also lead to higher strike out rate. Lately though, Rodriguez has been able to put more balls in play and take more pitches per at bat.

“He’s swinging at better pitches. He’s staying on it and not trying to do too much. Swinging at good pitches and not trying to do too much is key for him,” Wallace explains.

In Low-A Carolina in 2012, Rodriguez was able to show good power as he hit 19 home runs for the Mudcats that season. One of the reasons the Indians wanted to sign him was because of his raw power, which resulted in Rodriguez earning the spot as their twelfth highest prospect in their system. His plate discipline and aggressive swinging is what’s holding him back from reaching his potential. That is something that Rodriguez understands, and seems to be improving on in Akron this season.

“Sometimes I try to be too aggressive at the plate. So I try to be down and control my emotions on the field,” Rodriguez said regarding his recent offensive success.

After beginning the season in such a funk, it seems that Rodriguez has finally begun to turn a corner in Akron. With the return of Lowry from the disabled list, Rodriguez will again try to find some playing time somewhere on the diamond. Regardless of where he plays, he’ll work his way into an everyday lineup. If he continues to handle the bat as well as he plays on the field, there’s no reason why he should slow down anytime soon.

“He’s a guy that’s confident no matter where we put him on the field,” Wallace said. “He’s really getting more comfortable over at first, knowing where to play. He’s just a great athlete.”

Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer

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