Original Story | www.nydailynews.com
April 16, 2016
By James Wilkins
And it would happen about once a week, or whenever the Washington Heights school’s senior righthander takes the mound. Because just like the Mets’ ace, Rodriguez climbs the hill armed with a devastating arsenal of pitches — including a fastball that has regularly been clocked in the high 90s.
In fact, the high school hurler’s fastball is just as explosive as the one thrown by Harvey — one of the hardest throwers in the big leagues.
Just last week, Rodriguez’s heater was clocked at 98 mph when he pitched in front of 30 baseball scouts and Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski.
“I’ve always had one of the strongest arms in my age group when I used to play Little League and everything,” Rodriguez told the Daily News earlier this week. “And as years passed by, my arm started getting stronger, my body started getting stronger. Then high school hit and, I don’t know, my arm just got stronger.”
For the perennial PSAL powerhouse Trojans, Rodriguez plays on the same field once dominated by Manny Ramirez, who went on to become one of the most feared hitters in the major leagues.
While Ramirez is a George Washington legend, Rodriguez is the team’s new superstar. He’s an early round draft prospect and is also considered by longtime Trojans coach Steve Mandl to be one of the best hitters in school history.
“Believe it or not we’ve had seven people come out of here that have (played) in the major leagues,” Mandl said. “As a hitter, (Wesley’s) in the top two or three. As a pitcher, he is the best that ever came out of here, for sure.”
The 5-11, 200-pounder also plays shortstop and catches. But it’s his work on the mound that has gotten him noticed. He throws two-seam and four-seam fastballs, a sinker, a slider, a curveball and a changeup.
But it’s the heat that has scouts aiming their radar guns in his direction. And the 98 mph fastball also has opposing hitters stepping into the batter’s box very tentatively.
“It looks like they’re in terror a little bit,” GW catcher Jordy Abreu said. “His fastball runs up on you and it’s pretty hard to extend. And his curveball, it’s great. He has those batters dancing, so I don’t even know what they think.”
Rodriguez — who has committed to the University of Pittsburgh but would go pro if he is drafted high enough — struck out 16 batters when he pitched in front of all those scouts last week. He also hurt Abreu’s hand, pounding his glove consistently with the high-90s heater.
The only reason Abreu was catching that day was because Rodriguez had already injured the hand of the team’s other catcher, Dominic Asencio.
“I got the hang of it, but the first week my hand was swollen, to be honest with you,” Abreu said. “My left hand, my thumb, was all swollen.”
“He’s like ‘Look what you did. You was throwing hard,’ ” Rodriguez said.
“I felt bad because I hurt his hand,” he said, “but it was also a happy moment because that was another time that I topped out my hardest.”