Boston Red Sox left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez is expected to begin a rehab assignment next week as he inches closer to a return from the DL.
Eduardo Rodriguez took another leap forward toward rejoining the Boston Red Sox. The left-handed pitcher has been sidelined by a severe ankle injury for over a month but is making encouraging progress.
According to the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato, Rodriguez threw a four-inning simulated game on Wednesday in Philadelphia. It appears his injured ankle passed the test, as he’s now been deemed ready to begin a rehab assignment.
"“Eduardo looks great,” said manager Alex Cora. “Movement of his pitches, right where they have to be, very aggressive in the strike zone, he was able to repeat his delivery.”"
The plan is for Rodriguez to make a minor league rehab start for Double-A Portland on Monday. The next step after that will depend on how this outing goes but he may need more than one rehab start after missing more than a month. Even if his ankle holds up fine, he still needs to build his arm strength back up to a starter’s workload.
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Cora made it clear that Rodriguez will be a starter when he returns. Boston will have plenty of options for pitchers capable of starting but there’s no doubt that a healthy Rodriguez is one of their best. You can make a case that he’s been Boston’s second-best starter behind Chris Sale this season.
Rodriguez is 11-3 with a 3.44 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 9.46 K/9 this season. He was on a roll prior to the injury, tossing 17 shutout innings over his three starts in July.
E-Rod’s return would presumably bump Brian Johnson back to the bullpen. Rodriguez would certainly be an upgrade although Johnson has been more than serviceable as a No. 5 starter. He’s 3-1 with a 3.21 ERA in the eight games he’s been called upon to start this season.
Johnson lacks the upside and ability to dominate that Rodriguez has demonstrated but they can get by with him for now. A 10 game cushion in the AL East gives them the luxury of patience.
There’s no reason to rush Rodriguez. It’s certainly possible that he breezes through his rehab start on Monday and convinces the team he’s ready to return. However, this may be a case where they can afford to be cautious.
If the team determines he needs two rehab starts, they might as well give him three. A third start would be right around the end of the month, allowing the Red Sox to hold off until September roster expansion to active Rodriguez. That saves them the headache of determining who they need to cut from the roster to make room.
When Rodriguez first went down it was feared the ankle injury could be season-ending. His progress is well ahead of schedule. Holding him back until September would still give him the opportunity to make a handful of starts down the stretch to ensure he’s sharp for the postseason.