PHOENIX -- Fernando Rodriguez bettered himself as a pitcher even when he couldn't throw, intently studying peers from the dugout during a lengthy Tommy John rehab program last year.
On Tuesday, the A's right-hander brought his findings to the mound, to face hitters for the first time since the surgery last March, and he surprised even himself.
"Not what I expected it to be, I guess, because I had such an adrenaline rush, so the ball was flying out of my hand," Rodriguez said. "It's kind of exciting. It's something I've been waiting for a while. I couldn't have asked for a better day for it being the first time throwing off the mound to hitters."
Rodriguez threw 20 pitches, utilizing mostly his fastball and a few changeups, and impressing with tweaked mechanics that allow him to get the ball to the plate quicker.
"It's a good feeling for you when you work that hard," said manager Bob Melvin. "All the changes he looks to make from last year, he incorporated into throwing to hitters today. He was down in the zone with his fastball from a high angle, had a good changeup and, really, all the hard work has paid off to this portion so far. Credit him for all the hard work, because he has a chance to be a nice piece for us this year."
Melvin is still iffy about getting Rodriguez into a Cactus League game but has said the righty will at least see simulated game action by spring's end. The plan is for Rodriguez to remain in Arizona for extended Spring Training, before he'd even be considered to join the big league team, which is already packed with experienced relievers.
The 29-year-old has yet to throw a pitch for the A's following a trade from Houston with Jed Lowrie last February. But he's stayed busy in the meantime.
"I talked to Chili [Davis] a lot last year, and also with Bartolo [Colon]," he said. "The biggest thing Bartolo told me was, 'I've seen a lot of guys come back from the surgery. What you have to do is just work on your location and let the velocity come later.' So that's what I wanted to do this offseason, work on the little things.
"Today, I was able to actually see it. This is huge. I was very happy. Even now, I'm almost flying a little bit. After a whole year of not being able to compete, this was a big step."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less