MLB opening day: Paco Rodriguez gets to carry all the gear to the bullpen

USA Today Sports

Going into spring training, Paco Rodriguez seemed destined to one of the Dodger minor league teams. But after a solid camp and the need for a second left-hander, this Florida Gator will be youngest member of the Dodger bullpen.

One of the memorable scenes of the great baseball movie "Major League" was when Ricky Vaughn sees a "red tag" in his locker which meant he was cut. Vaughn, played by Charlie Sheen, storms into the manager's office and tells him off. The manager appreciates Vaughn's spirit and tells him he didn't cut Vaughn. After the ruckus calms down, it dawns on Vaughn that he in fact made the team.

I don't know how Paco Rodriguez felt when Mattingly informed him that he was going to be on the Opening Day roster, there has to be no greater feeling as a former player now manager than to see the joy and remember what it felt like when you made the major leagues.

Now, no one knows how long Rodriguez's stay will be but for someone who was pitching in college at this time last year, this is a fulfillment of what his plan was when camp started. Originally, Rodriguez was part of the Team Spain in this year's World Baseball Classic. But then Rodriguez changed his mind, "I wanted to stay and just get used to everything and be around the guys." Rodriguez did think it was a great event and he would welcome another chance the next time, "It is something that I want to do eventually," Rodriguez said, "my family are citizens from there and it is something that I really want to do."

Rodriguez had a few moments where he was brought in to face a left-handed hitter, the other night against Josh Hamilton comes to mind, but for the most part, he pitched entire innings during spring and he welcomed that opportunity. "I know that I am capable of getting both righties and lefties out," Rodriguez adds, "throwing to righties is fun, I am able to use all my pitches and attack."

During his pens, he tried to stay back more or elevate his pitches a bit. One thing that happened during an early pen session was a visit from Dodger legend, Sandy Koufax. "[Koufax] watched one of my pens, he'd make a comment here or there," said Rodriguez who also said when he shook Koufax's hand, "when he shook my hand, he took my whole hand and I thought man, that guy has a huge hands." Rodriguez closed his thoughts on Koufax, "it was great to have him around and share his information that he has, whatever he had to say it was great advice."

On Monday, Rodriguez will get to hear his name introduced as part of the 2013 Dodgers. His was an unlikely journey but he worked hard to make it happen.

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