Paco Rodriguez was the first 2012 draft pick to reach the majors. The Dodgers were the third stop for the young lefthander, he had two minor league stops, Great Lakes and Chattanooga, and then in September, his contract was purchased by the Dodgers.
Rodriguez begins his first spring training on the big league side of the facility and he already knows what is expected of him to stay at the big league level. In comparing where he was just a year ago, Rodriguez said he was taking it one day at a time.
"I am just getting used to everything, going with the flow, learning the things the guys teach me," he said.
He noted that when he compares where he was a year ago at the University of Florida.
"It's a completely different, just atmosphere, because in college you don’t have that many guys out here," Rodriguez said.. "This is more of a battle between trying to win spots and just get yourself mentally prepared for the season. In college, I’d probably be playing already."
Rodriguez didn't start getting ready for the majors after he got drafted, it started on the Gator campus.
"Our coaches prepared us tremendously with the things we do here in spring training," he said. "Thanks to them I am pretty well associated for the things I am learning."
One face on the Dodger coaching staff that is familiar to Rodriguez is new bullpen coach Chuck Crim, who was pitching coach in Double-A Chattanooga when Rodriguez was there last season.
"It’s great because we got to know each a little bit when I was in Chattanooga," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also thinks it will be nice since Crim is familiar with him and knows how he likes to work. While at Florida, his role was flexible.
"I pitched whenever the situation came, from the seventh on, I knew I could have an inning or two against probably all righties if it came down to it," Rodriguez said. "It didn’t matter in college I just went out there and threw to whatever batters it was, it didn’t matter, just tried to get outs."
Once Rodriguez reached the majors, his preparation went to another level, and he had to learn a lot in short period of time. "I sat down every time we had a new series, went over all those hitters just so I could be prepared, at least when they are at the plate I know who it is," he said.
His best pitches are "the cutter and the two seamer" that Rodriguez developed a little by little.
"Those two pitches have helped a lot, changing the hitters eyesight and the movement, just playing the x off the middle of the plate. It was great because it kept guys off balance," Rodriguez said.
He knows that he is part of a numbers game in the Dodger bullpen but he doesn't let that bother him.
"Mental preparation is just do what I can control," he said. "I don’t control the decision making or anything like that. All I control is how I pitch and how I take my daily routine and work as best as possible to be prepared for hopefully being on the opening day roster."
One thing he can control is his opportunity to meet someone he had heard about before he put on a Dodger uniform.
"I am excited to meet [Koufax] because my dad has talked so much about him; my dad has preached to me about Sandy Koufax and how good of a pitcher he was, I can’t wait to meet him and talk to him a little bit," Rodriguez said.
Asked if his father would come out to Arizona to see this meeting Rodriguez said, "My dad if he could, he would be out here, no question about it." But in the end it will be Rodriguez who gets to meet with the Hall of Famer. "It is going to be great to talk to somebody with such legendary numbers and who has been in the game so long, so I'm excited."