Washington pitching prospect Jefry Rodriguez has the stuff to be special, but he needs to stay within himself and develop his off-speed pitches, according to Auburn manager Gary Cathcart.
But even when he isn't at his best, the right-hander still has the talent and temperament to baffle hitters. He showed that Tuesday evening.
The No. 9 Nationals prospect allowed a run on one hit and four walks over five innings in the short-season Doubledays' 2-1 win over the host Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
Rodriguez struck out two batters, hit another and induced eight ground balls in his first New-York Penn League start of the year. He did not factor into the decision.
"His command was not probably what he wanted or what we wanted to see, but he has such good stuff that he can get by," Cathcart said. "He has a plus fastball and he got behind in the count a lot, but he was able to get some outs.
"He was erratic … but he got by without his best stuff. Some nights he can get away with some things. That's what young pitchers have to learn, because you won't go out there with your 'A' game every time."
The lone run allowed by Rodriguez came in the third inning. Ordomar Valdez laced a one-out double to center field, advanced to third base on Joel Mejia's groundout and scored on a wild pitch.
The 21-year-old was 0-2 with a 6.88 ERA in four South Atlantic League starts with Class A Hagerstown, but he was sent down to Auburn to work on his command and develop his off-speed pitches.
"He's a three-pitch guy -- fastball, curve, changeup," Cathcart said. "The off-speed pitches are coming, but he's a mid-90s guy, so that helps.
"He's been in the South Atlantic League and he knows he needs to tighten up his off-speed. He has a live arm and he's tall and lean. He has a perfect pitcher's body. He had some good games and some not-so-good games [in Hagerstown] and he just needs some consistency really. He's still a work in progress, but he has a very high ceiling."
The 6-foot-5 native of the Dominican Republic is in his third year of pro ball. He went 0-2 with a 2.93 ERA in 10 Dominican Summer League games in his rookie year in 2012, and he was 3-0 with a 2.45 mark with Washington's Gulf Coast League affiliate last summer.
"I would like to see him throw [his off-speed pitches] a little bit more," Cathcart said. "Get him to where he understands how important that is down the road. They don't see the forest for the trees. They're getting outs instead of developing their whole repertoire."
Auburn reliever Deibi Yrizarri (1-1) struck out one batter over two perfect innings and Mario Sanchez fanned two more in retiring all six batters he faced to earn his second save of the young season.
Third baseman Cody Gunter was 2-for-3 with a double and a walk and designated hitter Jean Carlos Valdez added an RBI double, a walk and a run scored in the win.
"We've got some good young kids on the team, kids who were in the Dominican Summer League last year," Cathcart said. "This is all new to them, things like playing under the lights. The bullpen has had one bad inning in five games.
"Gunter is making much more solid contact. He worked hard in extended spring [training] in Florida. He's a young kid, just turned 20, and he was here last year out of junior college. He had his struggles, but he will be better for it."
Mahoning Valley starter Anthony Vizcaya surrendered one run on five hits over four innings, but he did not factor into the decision. Dominic DeMasi (0-1) yielded a run on two hits and a pair of walks over the final two frames.