Yariel Rodríguez makes MLB debut in Blue Jays’ win

TORONTO — It was like an entry into WWE. My God, it’s Yariel’s music!

Yariel Rodríguez appeared out of the Blue Jays dugout and leapt onto the turf in four lateral gallops before spitting water into the air and dashing toward the mound. If this were the main event, Rodríguez would have stood frozen atop that mound as the roar of the crowd grew louder with the camera zoomed in, fixed on his eyes. His eyes tell you everything.

Rodríguez’s big league debut had a feel, an energy, an intensity vibrating with those glacier blues. The Cuban right-hander — the first from his country to start a game for this organization — held the Rockies to one run in 3 2/3 innings with six strikeouts in the 5-3 victory, showing flashes of ‘a pitcher with the potential to change the shape of this staff.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life,” Rodríguez said through a club interpreter. “A lot of sacrifice, a lot of hard work. It was very, very moving.

From the first pitch, there was spice. Rodríguez mixed in hesitations during his delivery and played with arm angles, doing everything he could to keep hitters off balance. It might have helped him get away with a few sliders hanging across the heart of the plate, but when Rodríguez spotted that pitch, he looked downright dominant.

One of his best finished the first inning, rushing towards Ryan McMahon. As he swung over, Rodríguez came back, jumping off the mound in the same direction he had come while beating his chest and brandishing his fist. Rodríguez wasn’t just looking in the mirror, either.

When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. caught a harmless pop fly to end the second frame, Rodríguez was just a few feet away, similarly celebrating with his teammates.

“We really couldn’t have asked for much more,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “He was electric. His slider was great with lots of swing and miss. His heating was great. He kept his cool. It was a very (very) good start in the Major League.

There are a thousand different ways to build a baseball team. The next great Blue Jays team doesn’t need to live up to the personality of those 2015-16 clubs, which were just as capable of winning a bar fight as a ball game, but it is what made a country fall in love with them. This was the team the rest of the league loved to hate, and in the most complimentary way possible, there’s a bit of that here.

There is a dynamism to Rodríguez’s game that is so intoxicating to watch. It’s more whiskey than chamomile tea. There is an upside to all of this.

“He’s not afraid,” Schneider said before the game. “Whenever you come to this place like he came here, with the things he’s been through, you’re not afraid of much. That’s a good thing. He does a lot of things really well. He controls the running game, he positions his position and he’s got everything you look for in a pitcher’s package. He’s got a good presence in him. I like that.”

When Rodríguez walked out of the Blue Jays clubhouse after the game, the music still vibrating off the walls behind him, all that emotion came out as excitement. Not only did Rodríguez reach the stage he spent his life chasing, he stuck the landing. He nailed the first impression.

When asked what he liked about his pitch, emotions aside, Rodríguez lit up again.

“Everything. Everything,” Rodríguez said. “During my first outing, from the first round, I went there to give the best of myself. The adrenaline was very strong, but everything. All. It was very moving.

There will be days that are not as festive. Rodríguez will settle into his rhythm, living in a role that could take different forms as the year goes on, and the ups and downs of the major leagues will surely come.

Saturday’s performance doesn’t change how the Blue Jays feel about Rodríguez — they believed in him enough to sign the guy — but it added some reality to it all. For a 26-year-old who followed Rodríguez’s path and didn’t pitch professionally in 2023, this moment was so important.

All he has to do is put on a show again and again. Luckily for Rodríguez, they tend to bring back crowd favorites.

News Source :
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