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PHOENIX – Reliever Fernando Rodriguez has yet to pitch in a regular-season game for the Oakland A’s due to the reconstructive elbow surgery he underwent last March. But he’s inching ever so closer to full health, and A’s fans might get familiar with Rodriguez’s name this season.
The right-hander was acquired along with Jed Lowrie from Houston in February 2013 in a trade that sent Chris Carter, Brad Peacock and Max Stassi to the Astros. Rodriguez appeared in just four exhibitions last year before hurting his elbow and undergoing surgery.
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He’s been throwing off the mound for 1 ½ months and he’s scheduled to face hitters for the first time Tuesday. It will be a big step for Rodriguez, 29, who was around the club during last season’s division-winning season but couldn’t be a full participant.
“I’ve been having to talk myself into slowing down, because we have a schedule,” Rodriguez said. “I’ll probably be (in Arizona) for another month after spring training. I can’t (compare) myself to how other guys are doing, but I’m getting antsy.”
Though manager Bob Melvin has yet to see Rodriguez pitch in a game that counts, he’s been impressed with how Rodriguez has used his long recovery period to better himself as a pitcher.
“He looks to me like he could pitch in game right now,” Melvin said. “That was a year well spent for a guy who had to sit there and watch. He studied different pitchers. He knew he was a little bit too slow to the plate. He’s combated that. He wasn’t just doing his rehab and then going home. He was staying, watching, learning.”
A’s hitters were split up into different groups Saturday to compete in a contest that stressed trying to hit the ball to the opposite field when the opponent is playing a shift. It’s an area where Melvin said he wants to see improvement team-wide.
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“When we’re looking at a (shift), you take what they give you and all of a sudden you get the defense back around for you,” Melvin said. “ It’s tough to hit it to one side of the field when everybody’s over there, so that’s something we’re trying to combat this spring some.”
Ryan Cook (shoulder inflammation) is cranking up the intensity of his throwing at 90 feet, and he continues to get closer to returning to the mound.