Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez not ready yet

May 28, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (52) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
May 28, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (52) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Eduardo Rodriguez will get at least one more minor league rehab start before rejoining the Boston Red Sox rotation.

The timetable for Eduardo Rodriguez‘s return to the big leagues remains murky. The talented young lefty is expected to rejoin the rotation for the Boston Red Sox at some point in the near future, but it won’t be this week.

Manager John Farrell confirmed that Rodriguez’s next start will come on Thursday for Triple-A Pawtucket, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

Rodriguez allowed three earned runs over 5.2 innings in his last outing on Saturday. Through four rehab starts, he’s 0-3 with a 4.29 ERA over 21 innings. He’s been solid, but not up to the standards he set with a promising rookie season in 2015. E-Rod is getting close, but he’s not ready yet.

"“He got to 100 pitches. He threw a high percentage of strikes,” said Farrell. “We’d like to see an uptick in performance in general. Health-wise he felt good coming out of it. And while [Saturday] I think is a slight improvement over his previous start and certainly over two starts ago.”"

Rodriguez is trending in the right direction, but hasn’t been quite as sharp as the Red Sox need him to be before he can rejoin the rotation. He has only struck out 10 batters through his four starts, putting him well below the 7.2 K/9 rate he posted for the Red Sox last year.

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Farrell also mentioned that Rodriguez’s velocity isn’t at he level we are accustomed to seeing from him, which may just mean he needs more time to ramp up to full speed. Keep in mind that Rodriguez missed most of spring training after going down with the knee injury that forced him to begin the season on the disabled list.

The good news for the Red Sox is that the schedule works in their favor, so there is no need to rush Rodriguez back. With an off day each of the next two weeks, the team doesn’t need a fifth starter until May 28.

Journeyman Sean O’Sullivan started Sunday afternoon’s game, giving up six runs (five earned) in 4.1 innings of work. For the second straight outing he pitched just well enough to keep the Red Sox in the game, but his ERA has inflated to 7.94 through two starts and a relief appearance. It’s about all they could hope for given his track record, but the Red Sox won’t need to rely on him again. O’Sullivan was designated for assignment after the game, allowing the Red Sox to carry an extra arm in their bullpen or add another bat on the bench until they need a fifth starter again.

By that point, perhaps Rodriguez will be ready.

Holding off that long for Rodriguez to return suggests that the Red Sox aren’t yet inclined to give up on Clay Buchholz after his latest dud. Given that they each pitched on Saturday, Buchholz could have been a candidate to be replaced if E-Rod was ready to be called up.

Farrell squashed any rumors that they may be ready to move on from the veteran right-hander by confirming that Buchholz will make his next scheduled start.

"“It’s not about stuff and I wouldn’t say it’s pitch selection. It comes down to location,” said Farrell. “And that was the case [Saturday]. Whether it’s falling behind in counts, a walk mixed in or a pitch that leaks back to the middle of the plate that is squared up. And it’s seemingly showing its head in the first couple innings. So these are things that he’s living, we’re living, we’re aware of. The conversation centers around that. I thought he brings plenty of stuff to the mound to win. Now it comes down to execution.”"

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Buchholz owns an unsightly 6.11 ERA through eight starts, but as Farrell alluded to, most of the damage has come early in games. Buchholz has been hammered to the tune of a 10.68 ERA in the first two innings of games, but has a 3.64 ERA in the innings after that. He’s allowing opposing hitters to knock him around early, allowing a .381 average the first time through the order, but he holds hitters to a .207 average after the lineup turns over once.

If Buchholz ever figures out how to get a feel for his pitches earlier in games then perhaps he won’t need to be replaced after all. In which case we may not see Rodriguez until a fifth starter is needed again at the end of the month.

Then again, Joe Kelly is on his way back from injury as well, so we should still consider Buchholz to be on a short leash. With a pair of injured pitchers closing in on a return, the Red Sox need to exile a pitcher from their rotation even after for accounting for O’Sullivan’s exit.

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We now know that Rodriguez won’t pitch for the Boston Red Sox this week, but he should be back soon, which will make this rotation that much stronger.