Maybe it's the Miami in Paco Rodriguez, where endless sweltering days turn into long balmy nights until all you know is heat.

Stick around long enough and your body adjusts to the conditions. Pretty soon what might seem scorching to everyone else seems normal to you.

Maybe that explains why the Dodgers' 22-year-old rookie relief pitcher from South Florida doesn't just accept the heat that sometimes comes with his job. He actually welcomes it.

"When things get hot, I want to be the guy that goes in," Rodriguez said.

You'd think that mindset was prevalent throughout the bullpen circles Rodriguez walks in, but that isn't always the case. Some guys melt when the temperature rises. Some guys thrive in it.

And the ability to deal with the conditions, emotions and high-stakes drama is the great divide between the great relief pitchers and ordinary ones.

Rodriguez is just 31games and 21 innings into his big-league career, but he's already showing characteristics of being a future late-inning reliever. He brings a 2.04 ERA and 0.78 WHIP into tonight's game against the Atlanta Braves while flourishing almost immediately upon reaching the big leagues after spending just 65 days in the minor leagues.

"He just handled himself so well," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He never seemed overwhelmed. He just threw strikes."