NEW YORK - The Phillies had a five-run lead in a September game between two eliminated teams, so what Joely Rodriguez did in the eighth inning Wednesday must not be embellished. Still, it opened some eyes in the Phillies dugout.
Rodriguez, a 24-year-old lefthanded reliever who was demoted to high-A Clearwater at the end of April, threw Melky Cabrera of the White Sox three fastballs. All three were in almost the same spot. They painted the outside corner, down and away from Cabrera, a dangerous righthanded hitter. Cabrera did not swing at any of them. Struck out.
The first one was measured at 96.5 mph by Major League Baseball's PITCHf/x system. The next one, 97.2 mph. The third clocked at a blistering 98.4 mph.
Where did that come from?
"I don't know," Rodriguez said. The Dominican pitcher smiled.
This game rewards velocity, especially velocity with location. Rodriguez, so far, has displayed that. He is making a fine case to be retained this winter on the 40-man roster, nine months after the Phillies removed him from it. Rodriguez's 95.7-mph average fastball ranks ninth among all lefties who have thrown a pitch in 2016.
"I don't want to get overly excited," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said, "but it is a good impression he has made."
Correct. This is September, when results are often skewed by expanded rosters and success is muddled. The Phillies, though, have lacked effective lefthanded relief all season. If they have unearthed an internal candidate to fill that job in 2017, it is a bonus. Entrusted with the eighth inning of a two-run game Thursday at Citi Field, Rodriguez needed just 12 pitches to record three outs.
Rodriguez came to the Phillies from Pittsburgh in the Antonio Bastardo trade. He did not develop as a starter, so the Phillies moved him to the bullpen. He gained velocity with that switch.
But the speed, Rodriguez said, came with other benefits.
"I'm more confident with my fastball and its location," Rodriguez said. "I have seen more results this year with it."
Rodriguez was just the second Phillies lefthander to throw a pitch faster than 98 mph since 2008, when Major League Baseball began tracking detailed pitch statistics. Jake Diekman threw 250 fastballs 98 mph or harder with the Phillies. They both, oddly enough, wore No. 63 for the Phillies.
Mackanin will look to test Rodriguez in the final 10 games.
"He has nasty stuff and he could get righties out," Mackanin said. "That last pitch he threw was filthy."