Red Sox: Will Eduardo Rodriguez make Opening Day roster?

Sep 15, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (52) throws a pitch against the New York Yankees in the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 15, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (52) throws a pitch against the New York Yankees in the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

Recent comments by Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski suggest Eduardo Rodriguez isn’t a lock for a rotation spot.

Having a surplus of capable options to fill the starting rotation is a good problem for the Boston Red Sox to have, yet it’s not so great for the pitcher that gets left out.

The top of the rotation is locked in with the star-studded trio of Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and David Price, but the situation has been a bit murky after that with several pitchers deserving of a spot. Depth is essential for any pitching staff and we can expect all of these arms to be given a chance to start at some point this season, but one of them will inevitably begin the season outside of the rotation.

Who will get those final two rotation spots? Spring training performance may dictate who ultimately earns that honor, but Dave Dombrowski’s comments on Buster Olney’s “Baseball Tonight” podcast shed some light on how he views the situation at the moment.

"“We have three guys basically battling for those spots, but if everybody is healthy come the start of the season it’s a great situation to be in because Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz both made the All-Star team last year and they’re penciled in fourth and fifth, along with Eduardo Rodriguez, who we think is one of the best young pitchers in the game,” said Dombrowski.”"

It’s clear that Dombrowski remains enamored with the upside of Rodriguez, but with a pair of All-Stars penciled into the final two rotation spots, where does that leave the young lefty?

More from Red Sox News

Unless Rodriguez drastically outperforms the competition in camp, the best place for him to begin the season may be Pawtucket. This would allow him to remain on a starter’s schedule so that he could seamlessly be plugged into Boston’s rotation if an injury opened a spot. While E-Rod already has 41 career starts under his belt, we have to remember that he’s still only 23 years old. Letting him develop as a starter in Triple-A would be more beneficial to his future than sticking him in the bullpen as a long reliever would be.

Even if E-Rod is lights out this spring, he may be sent to Pawtucket due to factors outside of his control. He still has minor league options on his contract, whereas Wright and Pomeranz do not. The Red Sox obviously won’t risk losing either of them by designating them for assignment, so they will both be on the major league roster. If they aren’t in the rotation then the only place left for them is the bullpen, which seems like a waste of their potential value.

There had been some speculation that Pomeranz would be relegated to the bullpen, where he showed flashes of success down the stretch last season. That remains a possibility if he struggles this spring, but Dombrowski didn’t surrender the top pitching prospect in the organization with the idea that he was acquiring a middle reliever.

More from Red Sox News

Pomeranz made the All-Star team for a reason, which wasn’t simply due to calling home to pitcher-friendly Petco Park given that he actually performed better on the road while he was with the Padres. His second half fade was at least partially due to fatigue, as he had already surpassed his career high workload before the trade that sent him to Boston. The Red Sox still believe that he has great stuff and remain high on his potential as a starter. Will he produce the sub-3.00 ERA he had in the National League? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be successful. He’s certainly capable of winning the award for the best No. 5 starter in baseball (a prestigious honor that I just made up).

Rodriguez has a bright future as a starter and has shown flashes of that potential over the past two years. Last season got off to a rocky start due to an injury combined with some mechanical issues that were the result of compensating for his recovering knee. He’s also had some pitch tipping issues in the past that have led to inconsistencies in his brief career. However, he showed what he’s capable of in second half of last season, when he posted a 3.24 ERA and 9.2 K/9 over his final 14 starts.

A lot can still happen between now and Opening Day, but at the moment it appears that Rodriguez will be the odd man out to begin the season. That’s not a reflection on his talent, but rather a glowing endorsement of how great this Red Sox rotation can be if a pitcher of his caliber can’t crack the top five.

Next: Red Sox sign former first-round pick Bogusevic

Regardless of where he starts the season, we’ll undoubtedly see Rodriguez in the big leagues in the near future and for many years to come.