Three years ago, Felix Rodriguez was a better-than-average catcher playing in the Pioneer League for the Great Falls Dodgers.
But during an exhibition game in the spring of 1993, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda inserted Rodriguez in to pitch as an experiment during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays.The rest, as they say, is history.
Rodriguez is now a 22-year-old pitching prospect for the Dodgers. Friday night at Franklin Quest Field, Rodriguez gave up just two hits and no runs in five innings pitched to lead the Albuquerque Dukes to a 7-1 win over the Salt Lake Buzz.
"We ran into a buzzsaw tonight," Salt Lake manager Phil Roof said. "Rodriguez showed us a pretty good fastball, and we weren't able to make the adjustments."
On that fateful spring day in Florida in '93, Rodriguez hurled a shutout inning against the Blue Jays, striking out one.
"I never even practiced pitching before," Rodriguez said at the time.
This season Rodriguez has already spent three brief stints in the majors with the Dodgers, appearing in 11 games - all in relief - and earning a 1-1 record with a 2.53 ERA. His victory over the Buzz improved him to 3-1 with a 3.65 ERA for the Dukes this season.
"My fastball felt better tonight," said Rodriguez, a native of the Dominican Republic who, at first, was not happy to be switched to pitcher. He said he now is glad he made the change, especially since the Dodgers have the catching position covered for what will likely be years by Mike Piazza.
Salt Lake's LaTroy Hawkins (5-6) gave up five runs on nine hits in six innings to suffer the loss. The Buzz dropped to 21-21, while the Dukes improved to 24-17.
Salt Lake's only run of the night came on a solo homer by Tom Quinlan that just cleared the right-field fence in the sixth inning off Albuquerque reliever Todd Williams.
Tonight the Buzz will start RHP Marc Barcelo (7-10, 6.58 ERA) in the third game of the four game series tonight against Albuquerque's LHP Omar Daal (2-0, 1.85 ERA).
BUZZ BRIEFS: The Minnesota Twins called up Buzz pitcher Oscar Munoz Friday. His spot on the Buzz roster was filled by Riccardo Ingram. Munoz, 25, is making his first trip to the majors. He was 8-6 with a 4.95 ERA in 19 games with a team-high 74 strikeouts for the Buzz. The Twins released RHP Greg Harris to make room for Munoz. Ingram, 28, went 1-for-8 with one RBI in four games for the Twins. He was hitting .344 with seven homers and 64 RBI for the Buzz before being called up two weeks ago. In his first game back Friday night, Ingram went 0-for-4 . . . Friday's game drew 10,651 fans, running Salt Lake's season average to 9,051 - the best in the PCL by nearly 2,500 fans per outing over second-best Edmonton . . . Patrick Lennon, who missed five games with a hamstring injury, pinch hit in the eighth inning for the Buzz, grounding out to the pitcher.