Boston Red Sox left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez showed progress in his efficiency by lasting longer than six innings for the third consecutive start.
The final line on Eduardo Rodriguez was messy. The Chicago White Sox roughed him up for five runs, including a pair of homers. It certainly wasn’t a quality start and he didn’t earn credit for the win yet there are some positives that the Boston Red Sox can take away from the lefty’s performance.
When Jon Jay gave himself up with a sacrifice bunt to move the go-ahead run into scoring position it marked a milestone for Rodriguez. It would be the only out that Rodriguez secured in the seventh but it ensured he would record at least 6 1/3 innings in three consecutive starts for the first time in his career.
Rodriguez tossed seven full innings in each of his previous two starts, something he hadn’t accomplished since he was a rookie in 2015.
The decision to let Rodriguez come back for the seventh inning was quickly questioned when he allowed a lead-off walk to Eloy Jimenez. The Red Sox countered Jay’s sac bunt by taking the bat out of the hands of the hot-hitting Yoan Moncada with an intentional walk but Yonder Alonso made them pay by pulling a first-pitch fastball for a base hit to right field that drove in Jimenez.
Boston would battle back to win on a walk-off infield single by Marco Hernandez, wiping out any questionable management of the pitching staff.
Maybe Rodriguez should have called it a night after six innings but that’s not the point. The takeaway is that he made it through more than six innings in fewer than 100 pitches. That’s an encouraging sign of efficiency for a pitcher who has averaged less than six innings over 104 career starts.
Efficiency has always been a struggle for Rodriguez. He has the ability to blow hitters away but he doesn’t always trust his electric arm enough to challenge them. He nibbles too much, driving up his pitch count and issuing more walks than we’re comfortable with.
These last few starts could be a sign of Rodriguez evolving. His walk rate is down to a career-best 2.6 BB/9 yet he’s maintained an elite strikeout rate at 9.5 K/9.
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Rodriguez only punched out four batters against a White Sox team that owns one of the league’s highest strikeout rates. It was the second time in his last three starts that he managed only four strikeouts but he sandwiched a nine-strikeout performance against a strong Minnesota Twins lineup between those outings. We can’t assume based on that sample that his strikeout rate will start to plummet or that E-Rod is making a concerted effort to pitch to contact.
The next step for Rodriguez will be combining this newfound efficiency with improved results. He’s surrendered 4+ runs and a pair of home runs in three of his last four starts, with the lone exception coming against the lowly Baltimore Orioles.
It seems as though Rodriguez has been around a while since he debuted so young but he’s still only 26 years old and only approaching his prime. There is still untapped potential in the lefty’s arm but reaching his ceiling will require him to handle a heavier workload.
His last few starts are a step in the right direction. If Rodriguez can maintain this efficiency by attacking the strike zone while limiting the long balls that have plagued him lately, we could see him take his game to the next level.