Yariel Rodriguez is turning his season around and showing he's worth every penny

Houston Astros v Toronto Blue Jays
Houston Astros v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages
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Coming into the season, Yariel Rodriguez was a major question mark. After missing out on the entire 2023 season and only having experience in Cuban and Japanese leagues, Rodriguez was somewhat of a wildcard. A few short months later, he beginning to prove just what the front office saw in him, when he was inked to a five-year, $32M contract back in February. The Blue Jays organization had shown their faith in Rodriguez, and it's become much clearer why.

The 27-year-old pitched his best performance to date on Saturday, shutting out the Seattle Mariners through 6 innings, allowing just a single hit. This resulted in Rodriguez' first MLB win, marking one of his first major milestones, with hopefully much more to come.

There's few pitchers who show as much flare and emotion as Rodriguez. When he beats you, he will let you know, and it's that fervor that drives him. He's a pitcher first and a showman second. He made himself clear back in February during his first presser after signing with the team.

“I am very emotional," Rodriguez said. "Very emotional and intense. I like playing with the hitter’s head and their mentality. I’m very intense.”

Rodriguez has had a rollercoaster of a season thus far, and it's only early July. He began the season with Buffalo Bisons, as a starter to build himself up after missing a large portion of Spring Training. After making his exciting debut against the Colorado Rockies on April 13th, Rodriguez was officially set to be the Blue Jays' fifth starter. Unfortunately, his early MLB career was halted after Rodriguez was placed on the 15-day injured list with thoracic spine inflammation. Despite these setbacks, the Cuban native has come back with a vengeance.

So far in July, Rodriguez has pitched 12.2 innings, allowing just one run on three hits. What really stands out is how he's starting to go deeper into games. He had never completed the fifth inning before July, and now has himself back to back quality starts. Rodriguez is getting in a groove, and the team is properly trusting him because of it.

This couldn't come at a better time for the Blue Jays, as they've needed a story like Rodriguez to work out in their favour. The starting pitching depth is rather bare bones, with the vast majority of their production coming from seasoned veterans like Chris Bassitt and Jose Berrios. The Blue Jays are the only team in MLB to not have any pitcher age 25 and under start a game, and there's little to no immediate solutions waiting in their farm system. That's where Rodriguez comes in.

Rodriguez is like a swiss army knife. He can be used in all sorts of different ways, and is flexible in what his role on the team may be. While there was speculation on if he would be a starter or reliever this season, his recent emergence has forced the Jays' hand. He knows he can be a starter in this league, and he believes he can be a damn good one too.

“I knew it would be a process, an adaptation,” Rodríguez said, “but I’m feeling a lot more comfortable every fifth day being in the rotation. I’m feeling good right now, very comfortable.”

Building on that workload and comfortability will be paramount for Rodriguez, as the trade deadline looms ahead. The Jays stand nine games under .500, which likely puts them in the selling market. The team may look a whole lot different next month, with a lot of familiar names on their way out. In any event, Rodriguez is here to stay, and his recent flashes of brilliance enforce all the reasons why.