Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez dazzles Yankees in first spring start

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 29: Eduardo Rodriguez #57 of the Boston Red Sox delivers during the first inning of a Grapefruit League game against the New York Yankees on February 29, 2020 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 29: Eduardo Rodriguez #57 of the Boston Red Sox delivers during the first inning of a Grapefruit League game against the New York Yankees on February 29, 2020 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Boston Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez made his first start of spring training today and he got right to work against the Yankees.

Today was our first taste of the always testy rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees of the 2020 season. Though it’s just spring training the heat is always on high between these two clubs. It may not always boil over onto the stove but neither ever wants to give an inch to the other.

This afternoon’s clash gave Red Sox Nation their first sighting of Eduardo Rodriguez this season and he didn’t disappoint. The southpaw tossed a strong three innings while striking out six batters and surrendering just a pair of hits. Unfortunately for Boston, New York was able to get the last laugh with a 5-2 victory, but Eddie Aces did his job.

Coming out of the gates with a performance like the one had today can only build his confidence going forward. Not only did he get a lengthy start, for spring training standards, but he had all of his pitches working. Throw in the fact that he got to sit more than a handful of New York batters down and that’s gotta be one hell of a good feeling.

There’s a lot going in with the Sox right now as it was reported earlier this week that the ace of the staff, Chris Sale, would miss his first few starts due to pneumonia. The rotation’s top-dog is no longer sick but the illness did cause him to push back his spring training regimen. With The Condor out of contention for Opening Day, the likely man to get the call is E-Rod.

The southpaw was asked about the potential Opening Day start and he was pretty candid with his feelings on the subject.

"“If it happens, it happens,” Rodriguez said Saturday here at JetBlue Park. “For me, just go out there every five days whether it’s the first or fifth starter. I mean, you see my last year. I can’t remember what number I had but it wasn’t No. 1. And I throw 34 starts. So for me, no matter where you’re at, just go out there five days.”"

I love that mentality from Rodriguez as it speaks to his pure competitive nature. Yeah, we all want to be the number one person at our jobs, but we also want to do out best when called upon. That’s how I interpret his words here. It’s not that he doesn’t want the prestigious start, he just wants to make sure on every fifth day when his number gets called he’s ready to do the damn thing.

I have to admit I was a little nervous about Eduardo after he fell in the bullpen last week. Thankfully he bounced back within a few days and was back on track to make today’s start. Considering the doubt that always seems to surround him due to his earlier seasons with Boston, the chip on his shoulder isn’t a shock.

He went out last season and was the ace of the staff and the only starter that showed consistency throughout the season. E-Rod set a few goals for himself going into 2019 and they were to toss 200 innings and earn 20 wins. His season ended with a 19-6 record through 203.1 IP in 34 starts. The lefty came within a few outs of getting that highly desired 20th win, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Rodriguez led the American League with 34 starts but also led the league with 75 walks. Giving the free pass to opposing batters was the one Achilles’ Heel in his game from last year and he’s hellbent on changing that in 2020.

"“Don’t walk (as) many people that I walked last year. That’s one of the things I really want to work on this year,” said Rodriguez."

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It’s still early in spring training but from what I’ve seen in his bullpen sessions as well as batting practice, and now today’s game, Eddie Aces looks ready to rock this season. If he can get that walk total down and maintain the rest of his stats from 2019, then we may be hearing his name come Cy Young voting time. His efforts last year got him in the conversation but much like other Red Sox players, his results were hindered by a poor overall season from the team.

I really feel like this is going to be the year that Rodriguez takes the next step in his career and reaches that ever-elusive brass ring. With Sale heading for the IL once the season begins, the door is wide open for Eduardo to become an ace on this staff. He’s already been bumped up in the rotation due to the departures of David Price and Rick Porcello, and this gets him even closer to being number one.

"“ERA, wins, the rest is going to happen somehow,” Rodriguez said. “If you go 200 innings, you’re going to have a really good ERA.”"

Rodriguez once again has his sights laser-focused on that 200 inning mark and he has a hell of a chance at hitting it. I’d also like to see him cross that 20-win threshold especially after missing it by a hair last season.

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E-Rod has always been someone with an incredibly high ceiling for his potential and the last few years we’ve seen him hit that mark. I’ve got a good feeling that 2020 will be the first year where he puts all of the puzzle pieces together and becomes a superstar. The Red Sox will be relying heavily on their pitching staff this campaign. Without a doubt, Eduardo Rodriguez is an arm that can carry them to success and a return to October baseball.