Eduardo Rodriguez

Remembering how a skinny kid named Eduardo Rodriguez found his way to professional baseball

Rob Bradford
June 03, 2015 - 3:45 am

The payoff of finally finding spot in Aruba to watch Eduardo Rodriguez pitch last Thursday was plenty for Calvin Maduro. But when a fellow scout came to watch over his shoulder, that was the icing on the cake. While Maduro's smile got bigger and bigger with each Rodriguez pitch in the Red Sox' Thursday night win in Texas, the other scout was growing increasingly upset. As it turned out, he and his team had been beaten out for the lefty pitcher's services by Maduro and the Orioles back in 2010, coming up $40,000 short. It probably didn't seem like a big deal at the time. Rodriguez was, after all, just a 140-pound, 16-year-old from Venezuela who had a nice throwing motion but not a ton behind it. After watching the Red Sox pitcher's major league debut, it became very evident reeling in Rodriguez was a very big deal. "He was like, 'Oh man, I'm so mad right now,' " said a laughing Maduro, a former major league pitcher who convinced his Orioles to commit a $175,000 signing bonus to Rodriguez. As irate as his iPad-watching counterpart was, the Orioles Latin American scout was equally as euphoric. Rodriguez was representing a talent evaluator's dream -- getting the payoff for a leap-of-faith projection. "It was awesome," Maduro said of watching Rodridguez's big league debut. "I talked to him the night before he went out to pitch. You see his chest and his shoulders now, he's huge, wide. Back then he was just a tiny, skinny dude." Rodriguez would have seemed to be the ultimate flyer. First off, this was a kid who originally threw right-handed before breaking his arm as an 8-year-old, forcing a switch to throwing southpaw. "They told me I couldn't throw with that arm," Rodriguez said. "If I threw with it, it was going to get broken. I can throw with it, but I don't want to get it broken. I never pitched with it again." As he got older, he managed to adjust to his new throwing side in fine fashion, displaying a throwing motion that led to the possibilities of playing professionally. That first became a reality for the skinny 13-year-old from Valencia when his coach, Eric Hernandez, mentioned in passing that pitching for money might be an option. "He told me I could be a good pitcher and sign if I wanted," Rodriguez remembered. "That was a good feeling." But there was still somewhat of a problem as he got closer to the age -- 16 -- when signing became an option. "I was worried," he admitted, "because I wanted to get stronger and throw with more power." Rodriguez was so slight -- standing at just under 6 feet while weighing barely more than 140 pounds -- that game competition was few and far between. Maduro, one of the first to lock in on the lefty, only saw the hurler in workouts, leading to some uncertainty regarding what he was really dealing with. But there was that motion. "He wasn't a flamethrower," Maduro remembered. "He was 84-86 and maybe a couple of 87s. It was just such a fluid delivery. It was amazing the way he threw the ball. With ease. Effortless. "I saw him three times, and every time I saw him I liked him. He was so nice and easy. After the third time I saw him, there were more people involved. Before that I don't think anyone was on him." As the signing period got closer, other teams started seeing what Maduro saw. Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Detroit had all joined in on the pursuit. But it was the Orioles who had seen the most and were convinced because of it. "I'm going to remember talking to the other scouts and saying how amazing how fluid his arm was," Maduro said. "Obviously you have to have some luck. You couldn't say he was going to be throwing 95-96 mph. If I did say I knew that, I would be lying to you."