From McKethan Stadium to Chavez Ravine, all in the same year.
Former Florida pitcher Steven Rodriguez made great use of his time in the minor leagues this summer, making his way to “The Show” just 81 days after appearing in his last collegiate game. Rodriguez’s Sept. 5 call-up to the Los Angeles Dodgers makes him the first player from the 2012 draft to reach the major leagues this season. Because of injuries to Scott Elbert and Ted Lilly, Rodriguez joins Randy Choate as the Dodgers’ only two healthy lefty relievers. Los Angeles has one other former Florida player on its roster, second baseman Mark Ellis.
The Dodgers chose Rodriguez in the second round, 82nd overall, in June’s MLB Draft. Rodriguez, a left-hander, posted a 3-2 record with 81 strikeouts in 62 innings to go along with a 2.18 ERA for the Gators during his junior year.
Rodriguez’s first stop in the Dodgers’ organization was with Single-A Great Lakes where the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder struck out 10 in six innings, giving up only four hits, no runs and had two saves. After being promoted to Double-A Chattanooga, Rodriguez, “Paco” to his teammates and fans, appeared in 15 games, striking out 22 in 13.2 innings while surrendering only two earned runs on seven hits and had three saves.
Opponents batted only .149 against Rodriguez in 21 minor-league appearances.
On Sunday, Rodriguez made his major league debut in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 4-0 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Rodriguez retired the only batter he faced when he induced Brandon Belt to ground out to first base.
Against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday, Rodriguez was called upon once again in the bottom of the eighth inning to pitch to left-handed batter Jason Kubel with two outs and runners on first and third. With Arizona leading 1-0, Rodriguez struck out Kubel on three pitches for his first major league strikeout while keeping it a one-run game. But the Dodgers failed to get the bats going in the next frame, with the final score holding at 1-0.
Paco could make his Dodger Stadium debut this weekend, as his club returns home Friday for a three-game set against the St. Louis Cardinals.
There has never been a former Florida player to reach the major leagues in as short a time as Rodriguez, according to UF Sports Communications Associate Director John Hines.
Another Gator alum, Nick Maronde recently made his major league debut with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Sept. 2, three days before his former teammate did. The left-handed pitcher played at Florida from 2009-11 before being selected in the third round of the 2011 draft by the Angels.
To put Rodriguez’s meteoric rise in perspective, Mike Stanley, who caught for UF from 1982-85, made his big league debut on June 24, 1986, after being drafted in the 16th round of the 1985 draft by the Texas Rangers (signed with the Rangers on June 14, 1985).
Ross Baumgarten played at Florida in 1977 and was drafted in the 20th round in June of that year by the Chicago White Sox. The left-handed pitcher appeared in his first big-league game with the White Sox on Aug. 16, 1978.