Dereck Rodriguez Is Right in Rookie of the Year Race With Big ‘sigh of Relief'

The National League Rookie of the Year race is headlined by 20-year-old Ronald Acuna and 19-year-old Juan Soto. Under the radar, Giants starting pitcher Dereck Rodriguez has added his name to the conversation. 

"Being in that race with those guys, it's a blessing," Rodriguez told Alex Pavlovic on the latest episode of The Giants Insider Podcast. "Knowing that last year I was in Double-A and now I'm in talk for Rookie of the Year, it's just a blessing being here, to be honest with you. I'm just enjoying every moment of it."

Rodriguez, 26, was nowhere to be seen among the Giants' top prospects going into this season. The Giants' front office couldn't care less about outside rankings, though, and Rodriguez was called up from Sacramento to San Francisco after nine starts. 

"It's just a sigh of relief for me after being so many years in the minor leagues and being converted into a pitcher and pitching for four years and having the success that I'm having right now, and knowing that I still got a lot of stuff to learn," Rodriguez said "So, that's what helps me out there.

"And Buster [Posey] and [Nick] Hundley help me out so much."

What has made Rodriguez's run as a rookie even more impressive is the fact he was drafted as an outfielder in 2011 by the Twins and didn't take up pitching until 2014. When he first stepped on a mound for a bullpen session, it didn't go so smooth. 

"The first couple bullpens, I think I threw maybe two strikes out of the whole time," Rodriguez said. "But it was fun. It was a lot of fun. That whole process of switching over, it's something I will never forget, and all the coaches that had patience with me were awesome."

Now, Rodriguez has a four-pitch arsenal. He's no longer a thrower but a true pitcher with just 2.1 walks per nine innings.

"This year," he said after Pavlovic asked when he first felt like a four-pitch pitcher. "Last year, I had those pitches, but I was very inconsistent with them. I worked really hard this offseason." 

Growing up as a position player, Rodriguez didn't feel like a pitcher until his second year on the mound in 2015. Fast forward to 2018, and the son of a Hall of Fame catcher has been the Giants' most consistent arm at times with a 2.25 ERA in 14 appearances. 

"It's one of the better stories in baseball," Giants executive vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean said about Rodriguez on KNBR.

Patience paid off for Rodriguez, and the Giants owe a big thank you to the Twins.

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