Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez will shine as top starter with Chris Sale on IL

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Eduardo Rodriguez #57 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait during team photo day on February 19, 2020 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Eduardo Rodriguez #57 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait during team photo day on February 19, 2020 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox announced today that Chris Sale will be starting the season on the IL. This opens the door for Eduardo Rodriguez to shine in his absence.

Today’s news that the Red Sox will be starting the season without their southpaw ace Chris Sale shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Though it’s been said that his elbow has been looking good to this point he did start spring training with a case of pneumonia. The illness forced interim manager Ron Roenicke to push back Sale’s workload and will inevitably force the lefty to miss Opening Day.

When one door closes another tends to open and the man that’s ready to walk through that entryway is Eduardo Rodriguez. Roenicke has said that physically Sale should only miss a couple of weeks but that could be all the time that E-Rod needs. Rodriguez already got a promotion within the rotation after the departures of Rick Porcello and David Price, and this is another step towards the top.

The last two seasons have been incredibly strong from the left-hander with 2019 being a year where he far exceeded his counterparts. Eduardo posted a nasty 19-6 record through 203.1 IP in a career-high 34 starts.

He had a chance to bring his win total to an even 20 but his final start was marred by a blown save that robbed him of the accomplishment. Still, it feels like we’re finally seeing him reach the potential that we’ve heard about for so many years.

Boston has enough stress on their shoulders with the lack of a fifth starter, so losing their number one guy isn’t making anything easier for Roenicke. Luckily for him, he has an absolute workhorse in Rodriguez that can take the ball every fifth day and go late into games. While the other vacant slots in the rotation will need some serious attention, filling in for Sale shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

We’ve seen what the big lefty is capable of and now it’s time for him to take the next step and show that he can be the ace of a rotation. His surge in the rotation last year was buried under poor performances from his comrades and with that now gone, he will get his chance to shine.

This past winter Eduardo tested the Red Sox in arbitration and unfortunately came out on the losing end of that battle. If he can put up numbers similar to what he did in the last two years then I can’t see him losing that fight next winter. This opportunity will present Rodriguez with not just a taste of being the top-dog but also a chance to show Chaim Bloom that he can be the ace if necessary.

Not only has Sale accumulated some serious time on the IL since coming to Boston but he also carries a massive salary. The Condor is on the books for another $115M, after 2020’s $30M salary is removed, while E-Rod is earning just $8.3M this year. So even if he earns himself an extension after this year, he won’t be commanding a salary the level of Sale and would be a bargain for the Red Sox.

Say Bloom goes into next winter with the mindset of shedding heavy payroll once again. The first name on the list is going to be Sale considering his remaining contract. Boston would most likely run into another situation like they did with Price and they’d have to bundle with someone desirable.

Eduardo will be a free agent when the 2021 season concludes so if he can have another good year, I see an extension in his future next winter. We saw Boston and Andrew Benintendi come to terms on a deal that will allow them to avoid arbitration for the next pair of years, I could see that happening here as well.

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Not only would this allow the Red Sox to lock up a talented pitcher for the next handful of years but they could also avoid the arbitration process for 2021.

It’s all going to depend on how he handles getting the ball to start the season. We’re still a few weeks away from the Red Sox needing to name an Opening Day starter but it’s hard to see anyone but Eduardo getting the call. I don’t feel comfortable rolling out either Martin Perez or Nathan Eovaldi for that spot as neither are reliable enough to carry that workload.

He’s set to make his first start of spring training on Saturday against the Yankees and if his bullpen sessions are a hint of what to expect, New York better be nervous. Even with the slip he had in the bullpen last week that resulted in some left knee soreness, Eddie Aces has bounced right back. Need some proof? Just watch the batting practice session he had against Rafael Devers, absolutely filthy.

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Today’s news about Chris Sale feels like another gut punch for Red Sox Nation but it is also a golden opportunity for Eduardo Rodriguez. Boston’s number two will now most likely get the chance to show Chaim Bloom and his bosses that he can carry this rotation going forward. If E-Rod continues to improve and reach his potential while others begin to plateau, then he could easily become the ace of the Boston Red Sox going forward.