Red Sox: Has Eduardo Rodriguez Returned to Form?

Jun 5, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (52) delivers a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first 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) delivers a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Eduardo Rodriguez has finally flashed his potential again in a win against the Yankees. Is it a sign of better times ahead?

It has been a good start to the second half for Red Sox Nation. With two wins in two games since the break, the Red Sox look to get on a roll. Not only has Steven Wright continued to show his dominance since returning from the break, but Boston has been given a pleasant surprise in the performance of Eduardo Rodriguez.

It is safe to say that Rodriguez had a brutal first half of the season. First there was his injury in spring training. What was thought to be a minor issue ended up sidelining the pitcher until the end of May. Then when he finally returned with hope that he would be able to stabilize the starting rotation, he did the exact opposite. Between May 31st and June 27th, Rodriguez pitched only one game where he gave up less than 3 runs. Not only that, but he also did not have a single start where he threw more than 6 innings.

E-Rod had turned into a shell of the pitcher he was in 2015. Rodriguez ended last year with a record of 10-6 and a 3.85 ERA. Last season, he pitched 15 games where he gave up only two runs or less. There was hope all across Boston that he would develop into the team’s next ace.

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The first half of this year definitely damaged a great deal of that hope. Bad habits arose in E-Rod’s mechanics. Every game, he seemed to be tipping pitches. He also began to rely on his fastball far too often. Rodriguez has a 3-pitch mix with a fastball, change-up, and slider. However, this season he began to use his slider less and less. With only two pitches to really have to worry about, it suddenly became far easier for batters to guess what E-Rod was going to throw.

By the end of June, Rodriguez was back in the minors with a mission to fix his mechanics and stop his downward spiral. It just did not look like 2016 was going to be his year.

The funny thing about a baseball season though, is that the tide can turn quickly. A player can go from being a nobody to a hero in the blink of an eye. Just ask local legend, Sandy Leon. With an injury to Sean O’Sullivan going into the All Star break, Rodriguez was placed back in the rotation and given a chance to pitch against the Yankees to start the second half.

E-Rod took that opportunity and turned it into a gem. In his start against New York, he allowed only one run in 7 innings pitched. This is the first time he has gone 7 innings since last season. So, are things looking up for the young lefty, or was he just lucky?

The signs point to his vast improvement being the real deal. Rodriguez came into the game using different pitching mechanics, where he held his glove up higher in order to stop himself from tipping pitches. Not only that, but he threw more sliders in this start than he has since last season. Both of these adjustments made it more difficult for opposing hitters to wait for a specific pitch. The Yankees were able to get only four hits in total off of him.

If there is one thing to be worried about, it is that Rodriguez got only one strikeout on the night. It did not end up hurting his results, but it could be something to watch moving forward.

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Overall, this latest start gives Red Sox Nation much more to be optimistic about in E-Rod. It could very well be where he turns the corner and returns to form. If he does so, it drastically changes the outlook of Boston’s rotation moving forward. With the addition of Drew Pomeranz and an improved E-Rod, the back end of the rotation suddenly goes from being a black hole to a strength for the Red Sox. Only time will tell.