Thursday, February 16, 2017

2016-17 BBM Winter Awards: Danny Rodriguez, Playoff MVP

What is it about Hector Daniel "Danny" Rodriguez and the postseason?  The 32-year-old lefty has established himself as one of Mexico's premier southpaws since his 2006 debut with the Saltillo Saraperos (for whom he still pitches during the summer months), including a habit of kicking into overdrive once the playoffs begin.

First, there was the 2010 Mexican League season with the Saraperos.  Although he'd had a so-so regular season (4-4 and a 3.97 ERA with a July 25 no-hitter against Mexico City) under Saltillo skipper Orlando Sanchez, Rodriguez found his groove in the Saraperos' championship run in the playoffs, going 5-0 at an 0.66 rate and beating Puebla twice in the title series to take home the Liga's Playoff MVP award on Saltillo's second straight pennant-winning team.  He was given a look-see by the Colorado Rockies in September that year, but not signed.  Rodriguez did eventually toil for the Braves' AAA affiliate in Gwinnett in 2013 and 2014, going a combined 9-16, and pitched 1.2 scoreless innings in one appearance for the Orioles' AAA team in Norfolk before being returned to Saltillo in 2015.

Pitching for his hometown Culiacan Tomateros of the LMP last winter, the 5'11" portsider had a solid 2015-16 regular season with a 7-3 record and a 3.00 ERA for a last-place team but he really shone in the playoffs as a reinforcement pitcher for Mexicali (2-1, 1.38) as the Edgar Gonzalez-led Aguilas fell a game short of the MexPac title against Mazatlan.  The Venados then picked up Rodriguez as a Caribbean Series reinforcement and it paid off, as he went five innings to earn Mazatlan's opening day 3-2 win over Dominican champs Escogido and then tossed six shutout innings to earn the W in the Mexicans' 7-2 semifinal win against Cuba's Ciego de Avila.  For all that, he was named BBM's Winter Playoff MVP.

Finally, there's the recently-ended 2016-17 LMP campaign.  Rodriguez was so-so for the Tomateros between October and December, finishing the regular season with a 4-6 ledger in 13 starts (although he did come in seventh in the ERA table at 3.50).  However, once again, he rose to the occasion in the postseason, going a combined 4-0 in the MexPac playoffs with a 2.52 ERA for both Culiacan and Los Mochis, who picked him up as a reinforcement.  After the Caneros were defeated by Mexicali in the LMP championship series, the Aguilas added Rodriguez for the Caribbean Series.  All he did in front of his hometown fans in Estadio Tomateros was allow one hit over six shutout innings in a no-decision against eventual champions Caguas of Puerto Rico on February 1, then come back five days later to hurl three perfect innings of relief with five strikeouts in Mexico's semifinal win against Cuban champs Granma to total nine shutout frames with one hit allowed and nine whiffs for the CS, where the Aguilas lost the final to Puerto Rican champ Caguas.

Surprisingly, Rodriguez was left off Mexico's roster for the upcoming World Baseball Classic even though Verdes Grande skipper Edgar Gonzalez managed him in Mexicali last winter and Culiacan this season.  Still, Danny Rodriguez' mound work in January and February is enough to make him the first multiple BBM Award winner for summer OR winter ball since the Bammys were inaugurated in 2010.

2010-11  Iker Franco, Obregon
2015-16  Danny Rodriguez, Mexicali
2016        Mauricio Lara, Puebla
2016-17  Danny Rodriguez, Mexicali