DAYTON — Speculation is rampant that outfielder Yorman Rodriguez, on the disabled list for the second time, might not play again this season for the Dragons.
Rodriguez took himself out of Sunday’s game at Bowling Green complaining of left shoulder pain. He had been cleared to play a few days earlier after being on the DL with a bruise in the shoulder suffered while diving for a ball at Quad Cities.
“Structurally, everything was OK,” manager Delino DeShields said Wednesday, referring to results of an MRI last week. “I’m going by what (trainer) Tyler (Steele) tells me — they don’t know what’s wrong.”
This is another chapter in the ongoing saga of Rodriguez, the five-tool Venezuelan who received a $2.5 million bonus to sign with the Reds three years ago on his 16th birthday.
It’s been upsetting to Reds officials that Rodriguez, who turns 19 on Aug. 15, does not seem to have a burning desire to play or, when he does play, to hustle. As one National League scout put it, “If only his heart matched his talent.”
In his first season above rookie ball, Rodriguez, ranked No. 4 among Reds prospects, is batting .264 with seven home runs, 40 RBIs and 20 stolen bases.
“Heart’s a tough thing to read,” veteran utility man Frank Pfister cautioned. “A lot of guys can get misunderstood. I don’t like that. A lot of people who say that aren’t around him all the time and don’t know what’s going on in his life.”
DeShields has been periodically dismayed by Rodriguez’s failure to run hard after balls hit to him or to pursue those that elude him. DeShields even shifted Rodriguez from center to right field, where the lapses tended to be slightly less glaring — and harmful to pitchers’ earned-run averages.
The Reds always have given Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt, citing immaturity. As minor league field coordinator Freddie Benavides likes to put it, “He’s a high school senior.”
DeShields has no qualms about North Carolina State product Drew Poulk playing right field until more is known about Rodriguez. Poulk, promoted Tuesday from Billings, was back in the lineup as the Dragons continued a series with West Michigan.
“With anybody’s job, things go on,” Pfister said. “But being under the microscope is not always easy. Yorman’s going to do some incredible things, and the doubters are going to eat their words.”