Rodney Bernard Pedraza
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 210 lb.
Rodney Pedraza pitched in the minor leagues for 8 seasons (part of two at AAA) then was an All-Star in four of his five seasons in Japan.
Pedraza was taken by the Chicago Cubs in the 35th round of the 1988 amateur draft out of high school but opted for college. He had also been All-Texas as a linebacker in high school. After 3 years at the University of Texas (including a 5-0 record for the Longhorns the year they finished second at the 1989 College World Series), he was chosen by the Montréal Expos in the second round of the 1991 amateur draft; the choise was compensation for the loss of Kevin Gross to free agency. Pedraza had gone 13-3 with a 3.33 ERA in college. While several players chosen by the Expos after Pedraza, such as Derrick White, Brian Looney, Kirk Rueter and Mark Grudzielanek made the majors, Pedraza fell one level shy.
Rodney made his pro debut with the 1991 Jamestown Expos (3-1, 2.05) and Sumter Flyers (2-2, 4.41). Overall, he walked only 16 in 93 innings. In 1992, the right-hander posted a 13-8, 3.26 record for the Albany Polecats. He led the South Atlantic League with 186 hits allowed while falling one shy of the win lead.
The San Antonio native moved up the ladder in 1993 with the San Bernardino Spirit, going 9-7 with a 3.18 ERA. The control specialist was second in the California League in ERA after Sid Roberson. The Expos then dealt him along with Ivan Arteaga to the Colorado Rockies for Freddie Benavides.
Pedraza debuted in the Rockies chain with the New Haven Ravens (13-3, 3.24, 23 BB in 127 2/3 IP) and Colorado Springs Sky Sox (1-3, 9.27) in 1994. He was 7th in the Eastern League in ERA and was chosen to the EL All-Star team (the other hurlers picked were Jimmy Haynes, Bill Pulsipher and Al Reyes). He was rated as having the best control in the EL by Baseball America.
The Texan hurler then missed all of 1995 due to shoulder surgery, significantly hurting his chances at The Show. 26 years old when he returned to the diamond in 1996, he again did well with New Haven (7-3, 2.95, 21 BB in 122 IP) but bombed at AAA with Colorado Springs (1-1, 8.36). He finished third in the Eastern League in ERA behind only Carl Pavano and Tony Saunders.
Winnipeg and Texas
A free agent, Rod found no takers in Organized Baseball despite two very good years at AA and settled for the independent Winnipeg Goldeyes, where he was a mediocre 8-5 with a 5.49 ERA in 1997. Pedraza signed with the Texas Rangers for 1998. He split the year between the Charlotte Rangers (5-5, 3.16) and Tulsa Drillers (3-2, 2.48).
Pedraza then signed with the Daiei Hawks early in the 1999 season. He had a good debut in Japan, going 3-1 with 27 saves and a 1.98 ERA, with a WHIP of 0.92. He finished second in the Pacific League in saves, 3 behind fellow American Brian Warren. He made the PL All-Star team. In the 1999 Japan Series, Rodney saved games four and five to complete Daiei's title run. He pitched 3 1/3 shutout innings in the Series, allowing one hit and no walks in a dominating performance.
The San Antonio native went 3-4 with 35 saves and a 2.15 ERA for Daiei in 2000. His WHIP fell to an amazing 0.77 with 4 walks and 35 hits in 50 1/3 IP. He again was picked for the PL All-Star squad. He led the PL in saves (11 ahead of runner-up Akinori Otsuka) and tied Eddie Gaillard for the most saves in all of Nippon Pro Baseball. He also tied Otsuka's PL save record (later to be broken by Kiyoshi Toyoda). Pedraza became the second American (after Warren) to be named Fireman of the Year in the Pacific League. In the 2000 Japan Series, Pedraza saved game one and tossed two shutout innings but Daiei fell to the Yomiuri Giants.
Rodney was 4-4 with 34 saves and a 3.65 ERA in 2001. Despite his decline, he was still an All-Star and led the PL in saves and save points. He took home the Fireman of the Year award for the second straight year, the second repeat foreign winner in NPB history (after Genji Kaku) and the first in the PL.
Pedraza was still the Hawks' closer in 2002, making his 4th and last PL All-Star team. He was 1-2 with 21 saves and a 3.30 ERA. Not nearly as dominant, he allowed a .300 average. He still became the first American and second gaijin (after Kaku) to save 100 games in NPB.
Overall, Pedraza had gone 16-12 with 117 saves and a 2.99 ERA in 194 games in NPB and 65-40 with a 3.82 ERA in 159 minor league games in his 14-season professional career. Through 2009, Rodney was 19th in NPB annals in saves and third among foreign-born hurlers (after Marc Kroon and Gaillard).
After ending his playing career, Rodney came back to his native Texas to run baseball camps and teach young players the game.