Red Sox option Eduardo Rodriguez to Pawtucket

Jun 5, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (52) adjusts his cap after giving up three runs to the Toronto Blue Jays during the third inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 5, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (52) adjusts his cap after giving up three runs to the Toronto Blue Jays during the third inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox have optioned struggling starter Eduardo Rodriguez back to Triple-A in the wake of his latest implosion.

The Boston Red Sox have seen enough. Who that man was that took the mound for them last night remains a mystery, but it certainly wasn’t the Eduardo Rodriguez they became accustomed to seeing last year.

Rodriguez was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket almost immediately after a 13-7 shellacking at the hands of a Tampa Bay Rays team that entered the game on an 11-game losing streak and the fewest runs scored in the league. The left-hander failed to make it out of the third inning, allowing a career-high 11 hits and 9 runs.

This was clearly the worst outing of the season for Rodriguez, whose ERA inflated to 8.59, but it was hardly his first start to turn ugly. The 23-year old has failed to make it through six innings in four of his six starts and has allowed 5+ runs in three of them. There has been more bad than good from Rodriguez this season, but Monday night he hit rock bottom.

"“Very surprising,” Farrell told reporters after the game when asked about Rodriguez’s outing. “On a night, again, as we’ve been going to that bullpen so extensively, we needed to get some innings. Felt like he was back to a place after his start five days ago that would carry him through. They bunched a number of hits together. They squared up a number of baseballs, a number of pitches tonight. It was disappointing.”"

This has been a season marred by disappointment for Rodriguez, but after every failed outing it seemed that the Red Sox were able to point to a correctable flaw. First he was merely shaking off the rust from a lengthy absence due to a knee injury that sidelined him through the first two months of the season. It was later pointed out that Rodriguez may be tipping his pitches, which was a bad habit that occasionally got him into trouble during his promising rookie season in 2015. Then it was determined that the altered mechanics Rodriguez had been using to compensate for the knee injury he was recovering from was depriving him some of his power and command, leading to the decision to return to his old delivery.

All of these issues were identified and supposedly corrected, so what’s his problem now?

Another flaw that the Red Sox have noticed with Rodriguez is his tendency to lose focus on the mound. Perhaps his issues are all mental, or as Red Sox fans have come to term the condition, Buchholz-itis.

That seemed to be the issue Monday night in the eyes of a fired up Dustin Pedroia, who appeared to be having a very pointed discussion with Rodriguez during a third-inning mound visit. I’m no lip reader, but it seemed the extent of it was Pedroia telling the young pitcher something along the lines of, “Get your head in the game, let’s go!”

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The veteran second baseman naturally downplayed the incident after the game, but the message seemed pretty clear. Get it together.

Rodriguez wasn’t able to pull it together last night and the Red Sox can’t afford to keep trotting him out there while he’s still figuring it out. He can do that in Pawtucket, where he can work on returning to form without doing any further damage to the big league club’s record.

The back end of Boston rotation is in shambles. The team reluctantly turned back to Clay Buchholz to be their fifth starter after all the options they tried to replace him with failed. Now they need to find a new No. 4 starter too.

The silver lining is that scheduled off days each of the next two Thursdays allows the Red Sox to use a four-man rotation until after the All-Star break. They could actually go until July 24 before a fifth starter becomes necessary, giving them nearly a month to figure out if Rodriguez is ready to return to the majors and putting them within a week of the trade deadline, when the opportunity to deal for another starter becomes more likely.

The potential for Rodriguez to develop into a quality starting pitcher is still there. He has the talent and we saw last season that he was capable of dominant stretches, but he’s still young and has a few things that he still needs to work on before he can be a consistent asset to this rotation.

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We will see E-Rod again in a Red Sox uniform at some point, but if he doesn’t fix his flaws this season then the hole at the back end of Boston’s rotation threatens to widen into a canyon.