LA Angels: When will Chris Rodriguez be used in the starting rotation?

We’re two games into the regular season and there’s some chatter about seeing Angels No.4 prospect Chris Rodriguez in the starting rotation.

The 22-year-old made his MLB debut in a 12-8 loss against the White Sox on Friday. It was an impressive first time out for Rodriguez, who began his big-league career with a three-pitch strikeout of Chicago third baseman Yoan Moncada. Rodriguez ended his night by holding the juggernaut White Sox offense to zero runs, allowing two hits while striking out two batters and walking one in two innings pitched.

He’s got a fastball that touches 98 MPH, and hard-breaking stuff that sits in the mid-80s. His pitch arsenal is electric to say the least.

“Honestly it was like nothing I’ve ever felt before,” Rodriguez said. “When I entered the gate I completely blacked out. When I got out of the inning and heard the fans scream, there’s no better feeling honestly.”

The only thing holding Rodriguez back is his limited experience. Back surgery and the global pandemic kept the right-hander out of competitive action since the 2019 season. He’s never pitched above High-A ball, but now Rodriguez has an opportunity to continue his development in the Angels bullpen, and at baseball’s highest level.

Angels No.4 prospect Chris Rodriguez should be considered for the rotation soon.

Manager Joe Maddon still views Rodriguez as a starter in the long-term, but he has emphasized closely monitoring the young pitcher’s workload.

“That was special and powerful,” Maddon said. “I think it taught us a lot right there. I didn’t know what to expect. He’s got that kind of ability. That’s impressive to get that many outs with that few pitches. I think we learned a lesson ourselves.”

I think it’s still going to take a few more outings as a reliever before Rodriguez is used in the rotation. However, that transition could happen sooner if other Angels pitchers struggle.

Andrew Heaney started Friday, and looked good early on when he retired the first seven batters faced. Things fell apart for the lefty in the fourth inning, and he ended his night allowing seven earned runs on five hits, while striking out four batters and walking two. The big blow came on a grand slam by White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu.

The struggles from Heaney carried over from his starts in spring training. It’s only one game, but you have to figure he has a short leash in his eighth MLB season. If Heaney can’t produce in his next start or two, Rodriguez could his shot.

It’s also possible Jaime Barria or Patrick Sandoval get called from the team’s alternate site to replace Heaney.

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Whatever the Angels decide they need to figure it out soon. The team’s offense will do a lot of the heavy-lifting this season, but they can’t afford to be down early and often every fifth day.