Red Sox rookie Eduardo Rodriguez a rare specimen indeed

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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Carl Willis has served as the pitching coach for All-Star left-handers CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, so in theory, he has the perfect perspective to assess which pitcher comes to mind when he watches Boston left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who might be the next great young star in a generation filled with them.

But as Willis, now the Red Sox pitching coach, puzzled over that question and watched the rain fall on the rarely used tarp here Saturday, he explained why Rodriguez isn't at all like Sabathia, who is 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds and has always pitched with a unique athleticism, or Lee, whose mechanics are so simple and fluid that he's like a machine.

In fact, Willis said that Rodriguez doesn't really remind him of anybody, and in time, he added with a smile, he thinks that other promising young lefties will be compared to Rodriguez, who is 22 years old and throws really hard, but already seems to have a special touch on his slider and changeup. Rodriguez will pitch for the Red Sox on Sunday Night Baseball against Angels All-Star left-hander Hector Santiago as Boston tries, again, to reboot a season that is slipping away.

In Rodriguez's last start, against the Yankees, his average fastball velocity was 94.8 mph, one of the highest readings among his first nine big league starts, and as Willis noted, Rodriguez's fastball isn't generated through maximum effort. Rather, Rodriguez's motion is nice and easy -- and whap! -- the fastball is on the hitter.

Rodriguez had a higher fastball percentage in his last start (85 percent) than in any other start this season, an increase fostered by veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan, who looked to establish the fastball against the Yankees' lineup.