Red Sox manager strongly hints Eduardo Rodriguez will start Opening Day

Eduardo Rodriguez of the Boston Red Sox celebrates after pitch. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Eduardo Rodriguez of the Boston Red Sox celebrates after pitch. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox are expected to send Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound to start on Opening Day against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Ron Roenicke isn’t ready to make an official announcement regarding his Opening Day starter but the choice is clear. In case there was any doubt, the Boston Red Sox interim manager dropped a not-so-subtle hint.

While he tried to remain coy about his decision, when Roenicke was asked flatly if his starter to open the season was the same pitcher taking the mound tonight he replied slyly, “You’ve done the math.”

That tells us all we need to know. Eduardo Rodriguez will pitch in Wednesday night’s exhibition game against the Tamp Bay Rays. The manager’s response all but assures that he’s the choice to start on Opening Day in Toronto.

Math was never my strong suit but this one’s fairly easy to calculate. If Rodriguez pitches on a normal schedule of every five games for the remainder of spring training, his next starts would line up on March 17 vs the Atlanta Braves and March 21 vs the Baltimore Orioles. That would put him on target for the regular season opener on March 26.

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Setting the calendar aside, Rodriguez is the obvious choice to get the honor of pitching on Opening Day. Chris Sale will begin the season on the injured list and his availability in 2020 remains a lingering question. David Price and his bloated contract were shipped off to Los Angeles. Rick Porcello bolted in free agency. E-Rod is now the clear leader of this staff.

Rodriguez earned this spot by establishing himself as the best pitcher in Boston’s rotation last year. While his more accomplished veteran teammates sputtered through poor performances and injuries, E-Rod broke out with a career year. He won 19 games while posting a 3.81 ERA and 9.4 K/9 to finish sixth on the AL Cy Young ballot.

The top starter in the rotation is expected to be a workhorse, one who is capable of making more than 30 starts while logging 200+ innings. That term was never used to describe Rodriguez early in his career as he battled knee injuries and struggled to last deep into games. That perception shifted last year when he set career-highs with 34 starts and 203 1/3 innings. He stayed healthy and became more efficient to prove that he can handle an ace’s workload.

Everything we’ve seen from Rodriguez this spring points to the lefty building on that breakout year. Through two starts, Rodriguez has allowed only two runs over seven innings for a 2.57 ERA. He has racked up 10 strikeouts with only one walk allowed.

The Red Sox have an off day on Thursday but Nathan Eovaldi is expected to throw a simulated game. That strongly suggests that they want to keep him on track to start the second game of the season.

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It’s not the one-two punch at the top of the rotation we would have expected a few months ago but the way that Rodriguez and Eovaldi have been throwing this spring, they have the potential to provide a formidable duo for the Red Sox. As for the rest of the rotation behind them, well… they are going to need some more time to figure that out.