Left-hander Paco Rodriguez shakes his head when he thinks of how much his life has changed in the last five months.
Coming out of spring training, Rodriguez thought he had a 50-50 chance of making the Dodgers' opening-day roster. Today, he is one of the most important pieces of the team's vastly improved bullpen, ranking among the league leaders in several categories.
"It's been absolutely phenomenal," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez began Monday as the National League leader among relievers in walks plus hits per innings pitched at 0.74. His 1.91 earned-run average ranked seventh among NL relievers.
Rodriguez, 22, has continued a meteoric rise that started last year, when he pitched in 11 games to become the first player from the 2012 draft class to reach the major leagues.
One of the last players to make the Dodgers' opening-day roster, Rodriguez finds himself as one of the team's most-used arms. His 62 appearances before Monday ranked third on the team and ninth in the NL.
"It's awesome for them to be able to trust me that much," he said.
Manager Don Mattingly trusts Rodriguez enough to not only use him against left-handed hitters, but also against right-handers. Left-handers were batting .133 against him through Sunday and right-handers .155.
"I knew throwing my changeup I had a good chance, because it's a pitch that keeps them off balance and opens up both sides of the plate," Rodriguez said. "I knew that I could do it."
Rodriguez owes much of his success to a deceptive delivery in which he hides the ball behind his head when cocking back his arm. The delivery has evolved, as he now shows the ball before making it disappear.
"I felt like once I got out here, I needed to stay on top of the ball as long as possible," he said. "So I started bringing it out a little early. It helped me be on top for whatever reason. Little by little it became a habit. When I was in college, I always wanted to keep my arm behind my body so that it was hard to pick up. Now, I do show it a little bit."
Clayton Kershaw to hold fundraiser
Clayton Kershaw will play host to a table tennis tournament Thursday evening at Dodger Stadium to raise money for his charitable foundation. Proceeds will go to rebuild a school in Zambia, where Kershaw has built an orphanage, and youth programs in Los Angeles and Dallas.
Among the confirmed attendees are Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, Mattingly, Hall of Fame basketball players Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, former NFL star Willie McGinest and actors Alyssa Milano, Matthew Perry, Ken Jeong, Jason Bateman and George Lopez.
For information on how to purchase tickets to watch or participate in the tournament, visit dodgers.com/kershaw.
Matt Kemp is scheduled the run the bases Tuesday in what could be his final test before starting a minor league rehabilitation assignment. … The first 50,000 spectators at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday will receive a bobblehead doll commemorating Rick Monday's preventing protesters from burning an American flag at Dodger Stadium on April 25, 1976.
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