Phil Roof had been telling people all season that starting pitcher Frankie Rodriguez belonged in the major leagues. He told them not to pay any attention to the 2-7 record that sat alongside Rodriguez' name in the stats because "when Frankie focuses and really concentrates, he's as tough as they come."
Of course, those Roof told just pushed the talk off to the side, thinking he was only trying to keep Rodriguez's confidence from blowing up.It now seems Rodriguez is finally starting to live up to his manager's high praise as he put together his second straight masterpiece as the Buzz beat Vancouver 9-3 on Monday evening.
Rodriguez pitched seven strong innings, only allowing one run on three hits while striking out six. Just six days ago, Rodriguez tossed nine innings of shutout ball against Calgary.
"He's starting to put things together," said Roof. "He should be 7-4 in the Big Leagues, not 4-7 in Triple A. He's got all the pitches."
Of course, it helps when your mates string together nine runs and 12 hits. It's awfully tough to lose a game when your offense is sizzling like Salt Lake was, but strangely enough the Buzz pitchers have done that this season.
But not now. Salt Lake has won four of five heading into the three-day all-star break, mainly because the pitching has finally started coming through. Roof can now even bear to open his eyes when one of his hurlers throws a breaking ball.
"We're fully capable of playing good ball like this every night," said Roof. "We're a better team than we've shown, and the guys are proving that right now. Maybe we're starting to turn things around."
All-Star Chad Rupp showed he is deserving of the honor going 2-for-2 with a home run and three RBI. Rupp tore the game wide open in the third with a three-run bomb that put Salt Lake up 5-0. The blast never got higher than 20 feet off the ground. It cleared the left field wall and almost ripped one fan, who tried to catch Rupp's rope barehanded, limb from limb.
Rupp was hit on the elbow in his first at-bat, leaving him in quite a bit of pain. The trainer came onto the field and checked Rupp out for several minutes before deciding he was good to go.
Canadian pitcher Erik Hanson should have thrown a little harder.
"I think that just lit a fire in him," said Roof. "Anytime you get hit that's what should happen. Chad was in pain, but not enough to stop him."
Salt Lake pushed its lead to 8-1 in the fifth when David Ortiz and Brian Buchanan both doubled in runs, while Rupp singled home another. Ortiz drove in a pair of runs for the Buzz and is getting called up by Minnesota today, having completed a 12-game rehab assignment.
BEE LINES: Buzz pitcher Travis Baptist is slated to start Wednesday's Triple-A All-Star Game, but Roof won't allow him to throw any more than two innings . . . Rupp is a reserve for the game, and he will be competing in the home run derby as well.