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April 29, 2008 4:20 PM

Aneury Rodriguez rising to the top

Aneury Rodriguez has had only mixed professional success since Jack Etkin wrote this article in the Rocky about him two years ago, going 13-13 with a 4.82 ERA in the 2006-2007 seasons at Tri-City and Asheville.

That said, he has been young for his league at every level -- he won't turn 21 until December -- so the results don't necessarily tell the whole story. The age actually starts to tell us something. This year Rodriguez enters as the sixth youngest pitcher in the California League, and the four starting pitchers who are younger -- Oakland prospects Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson, Giants prospect Tim Alderson and Rangers prospect Kasey Kiker -- all rank in their organizations' top 10 prospects.

Through five starts in 2008, Rodriguez looks to be their equal. He has just come off back-to-back starts, where he limited the opposition to just two hits in seven innings.

The solid April is another point in Rodriguez's favor. In 2007, he got off to a slow start as he struggled to adjust to full-season play in Asheville, posting an ERA of 5.26 for April. The fact that he made this next transition to the advanced A level -- which is considered more difficult -- with relative ease is certainly a sign of a step forward by the pitcher. So how far has he come, and what can we expect of Rodriguez as a Rockies pitcher?

Rodriguez throws three pitches for strikes, and unlike some of the Rockies' prospects, he does that most of the time, walking only 5.3 percent of the batters he has faced this season.

That figure is comparable to the Rockies' better control pitching prospects such as Greg Reynolds (5.3%), Brandon Hynick (6.5%) or teammate Weiser (4.2%).

What makes Rodriguez different from these three is that he has shown a much better ability to put stingy hitters away via the strikeout. The fastball that was mostly in the 89-90 range when Etkin wrote about him regularly sits in the working 90-92 mph range now, and the curve is an effective out pitch. Mixing that hook along with his changeup into his repertoire more frequently has helped him keep hitters from sitting on the fastball.

He has registered 27 strikeouts in 28 innings, which is very good when measured next to the six walks. Rodriguez still struggles sometimes to keep the downward angle mentioned in the Etkin piece on his pitches and when he flattens them out he gets in a lot of trouble -- as was the case in an Opening Day start that saw him last just three innings, giving up six hits, including two home runs.

At the moment, he profiles as a quality big league starter in the second or third slot of a contender's rotation. If Rodriguez can stay more consistent with the angle of his pitches without losing control or movement, there is still some hope that he can fill an ace's role. At the very least, he should be considered among our top two or three right-handed starting prospects.

Colorado Springs: Recently acquired Sean Smith (sent by Cleveland to complete the Jamey Carroll trade) made a rather rough organizational debut Saturday. Smith allowed five runs in three innings in relief of Valerio de los Santos in a 16-8 loss. Joe Koshansky has 12 hits in his last seven games, including one home run and five doubles. Both he and Ian Stewart are hitting left-handed pitchers surprisingly well. Koshansky's batting .353 with six doubles against southpaws this year, and Stewart's at .364 with three doubles and a pair of homers off them. Seth Smith might try to find out what the secret to their success has been as he's only hitting .206 off left-handers this year. Smith did have a homerun in Monday's contest, his second of the season.

Tulsa: The broken wrist Eric Young Jr. suffered this past Saturday is expected to keep him out four to six weeks. With the injury, Corey Wimberly will move back to his regular position from the third base/infield utility role he had been playing with the Drillers, and Henry Blanco got called up from Modesto to man third. Casey Weathers has been held back from pitching as a precautionary measure this past week after feeling a minor twinge in his arm.

Modesto: Lefty Keith Weiser has an ERA of 1.82 in the four starts since giving up nine hits in 4 2/3 thirds innings to open the season. Shane Lindsay had a great start on April 23, giving up just one hit in six innings while striking out nine, but he came back to earth Monday night with a short four-inning outing that saw him give up four runs on six hits. Though he has had his share of wildness (18 walks), Lindsay hadn't allowed more than two hits in a start until that most recent one. Michael McKenry broke a 0-for-16 slide that had seen his batting average dip to .203 with a home run and single Monday. First baseman Michael Paulk is batting .346 over the past seven games and has raised his average to .287. Nick Haley was activated from the DL to replace Blanco.

Asheville: Darin Holcomb continues to tear up the Sally League. Over the past nine games, Holcomb is batting .429 with seven of his 15 hits going for extra bases. Most of that damage has come on the current 10-game road trip, too. Everth Cabrera has an 11-game hitting streak in which he has a .388 batting average. Cabrera has reached safely via hit or walk in all but one game this season. Cory Riordan and Jhoulys Chacin rank 1-2 among South Atlantic League starters in innings pitched, and their 1.65 and 1.69 respective ERAs are near the top of the league as well.


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    10:04 AM

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