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Paco Rodriguez gaining confidence, Dodgers gaining confidence in him

Rodriguez has been a key late-inning weapon for the Dodgers in 2013, providing a perfect complement to Kenley Jansen in the back end of the bullpen.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- With the potential tying run on third base on Sunday in the eighth inning, Paco Rodriguez struck out the Padres' hottest hitter, the left-handed hitting Will Venable. But that's nothing new.

Left-handed batters since Rodriguez joined the Dodgers last September have just 13 hits against the southpaw, hitting just .129/.200/.168. Since Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs homered on Aug. 1, the only long ball allowed by Rodriguez to a left-handed batter in 111 career plate appearances against, lefties are 1-for-21 with two walks and 11 strikeouts against Rodriguez.

But after the strikeout, Chris Denorfia came to the plate with two outs. Denorfia is hitting .286/.355/.506 against left-handers this season, and right-hander Brian Wilson was in the bullpen.

But the Dodgers stayed with Rodriguez.

"Even though Denorfia hits lefties better than righties, Paco has gotten them both out," manager Don Mattingly said after the game. "You trust him to get the ball where he needs to."

Rodriguez got Denorfia to ground back to the mound for the final out of the inning, keeping the tying run from scoring. Right-handed batters haven't fared much better than lefties against Rodriguez, hitting .150/.242/.188 with one home run in 92 plate appearances.

"In that situation I thought he's bring Wilson in, but I know they have confidence in me. When Honey came out I knew it was all mine. We came up with a game plan, and it was one of those things. Once you know they have trust in you it just makes you that much more confident in yourself," Rodriguez said. "I'm just happy there is confidence in me, that I'm able to do that job."

That confidence in Rodriguez has come with his stellar season. He hasn't allowed a hit since Aug. 14, and hasn't allowed a run since the Rizzo home run on Aug. 1. He has allowed two runs total, just one earned, in his last 37 appearances.

He has come a long way since fighting, and succeeding, to make the team out of spring training, and has a 1.85 ERA with 57 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 48⅔ innings.

No other major league reliever is within 10 of Rodriguez's 64 inherited runners, and he has allowed just 14 (21.9%) to score.

Once you know they have trust in you it just makes you that much more confident in yourself -Paco Rodriguez

On the first day of spring training, the day that Dodgers pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., general manager Ned Colletti praised Rodriguez, who last September became the first 2012 draftee to make the big leagues. But Colletti stressed that the confident Rodriguez would need to continue to make adjustments to stay successful.

Rodriguez has followed that plan, to a tee.

"Making adjustments, I think that's the biggest thing," Rodriguez said. "All you hear of listening to Gonzo's (first baseman Adrian Gonzalez) conversations and guys who have been around for a long time, they're always trying to make adjustments to one pitch or another.

"I've done that meeting with A.J. [Ellis] and meeting with Fed (catcher Tim Federowicz), we make adjustments to hitters and what pitch sequences we use, just to keep them off balance. That's been my biggest help this year. Just keep attacking them to their weaknesses, that's the biggest thing we ty to accomplish as a team."