Red Sox: Battle for the fifth rotation spot down to three candidates
Rodriguez could have a leg up on his competition because he held a rotation spot last season and because of his pure potential, which he seemed close to finally harnessing in the latter portion of the campaign. Injuries derailed a promising start to his year, but he got his mojo back in August and September. He’s now recovering from knee surgery but appears to be on track to rejoin the team at some point in the first half of the season.
At his healthy points, Rodriguez pitched as well as anyone last year. He put up a 2.70 ERA in March and April, and a 2.81 ERA in May. That streak of quality pitching spanned 55.1 innings, and then June rolled around. Thanks to a slip while warming up, E-Rod pitched just 20.1 innings in June and July, and didn’t come away with much to show for it. In August, he began to find himself again and then turned in a 3.33 ERA in 27 September innings. If he’s healthy and can continue that positive trend, it might make the most sense to give him a shot in the rotation.
Still, the bullpen might suit Rodriguez. He’s logged just one inning of relief work in the majors, which isn’t useful for predicting anything. Yet, if it’s an issue of health, the bullpen would limit the wear and tear. Even if it’s not, he might succeed as a long reliever. He’s never been an innings eater, even at his best. Removing the pressure of going deep into games could help him. Then again, it might not.
Per Fangraphs, Rodriguez is at his best his first time through a batting order. He’s picked up a 3.68 ERA his first time through, a 4.41 his second time through, and a 4.88 his third time through. The bullpen wouldn’t really help him avoid his initial troubles, though it would keep him from him his bitter endings. Plus, he’s historically been better in lower-leverage situations. All-in-all, while Rodriguez could pitch effectively out of the ‘pen, a move there wouldn’t really benefit him. A place in the rotation still represents his best chance for success.