K-Rod coming of age

Eric Karros called Francisco Rodriguez's slider the best right-handed breaking ball he's ever seen.

Updated: May 3, 2004, 8:38 AM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
Eric Karros, who's encountered thousands of pitches that bend in 13 big-league seasons, calls Francisco Rodriguez's slider the best right-handed breaking ball he's ever seen. The pitch sweeps across the plate at a 45-degree angle before diving into the dirt and the catcher's mitt, simultaneously breaking the plane of home plate and crushing a hitter's spirit.

When Oakland's Eric Chavez referred to Rodriguez as "filthy'' last weekend, it had nothing to do with personal hygiene. A's right fielder Jermaine Dye, who's off to a terrific start, looked overmatched Sunday while swinging at two straight Rodriguez sliders that were at least a foot outside.

That's understandable, given that Rodriguez also throws a 95 mph fastball. The two pitches have produced some downright Gagne-like numbers in April. In his first 10 2/3 innings, K-Rod struck out 18 batters, allowed six hits and didn't give up an earned run.

Jerry Crasnick

ESPN Senior Writer

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