The Red Sox got a positive update on the health of Eduardo Rodriguez.
The lefty has been sidelined all season after developing myocarditis as a result of contracting COVID-19. The heart muscle inflammation is a serious condition that immediately led the team to shut Rodriguez down from all baseball activities.
According to MLB.com’s Ian Browne, the Red Sox received “really good news” regarding the health of Rodriguez. He’s been cleared to start walking in a couple of weeks and will work his way up toward walking on a treadmill. The team is hoping that he’ll have a normal offseason to build himself up for the start of next season.
There’s a lot to unpack from this news but the first thing that springs to mind is that the update drills home the severity of his condition. I’m done hearing from the crowd claiming that COVID-19 is only dangerous to old people in nursing homes. Rodriguez is a 27-year-old professional athlete in otherwise healthy condition who still hasn’t been medically cleared to go for a WALK months after battling this virus.
On a more positive note, this update confirms that Rodriguez has made great progress in his recovery. We can imagine that Rodriguez isn’t exactly in game shape after months of limited physical activity but getting the green light within the next couple of weeks should allow him plenty of time to ramp up before spring training next year.
To say that the Red Sox rotation has not fared well without Rodriguez would be an understatement. Boston’s pitching staff enters the day ranked dead last in the majors with a 5.75 ERA and -0.5 WAR, per FanGraphs.
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Their brutal bullpen deserves their fair share of blame for those results but Red Sox starting pitchers still own the second-worst mark in the majors with a collective 5.51 ERA. The inability of the starters to go deep into games has resulted in Boston having the most overworked bullpen in baseball, contributing to the abysmal results from their relievers.
Getting Rodriguez back on the mound for Opening Day would be a tremendous boost to this rotation. Rodriguez won 19 games last season with a 3.81 ERA and 9.4 K/9 to finish sixth on the AL Cy Young ballot. If he manages to return to form after recovering from this health scare, Rodriguez provides the Red Sox with the legitimate front-line starter they lacked this year.
The Red Sox also hope to get Chris Sale back at some point next year. Sale still has a long road ahead of him as he recovers from Tommy John surgery but he recently started throwing again and is on track to return to the team sometime in the first half of the season.
Boston’s rotation should be drastically improved next year but it doesn’t need a complete overhaul if their pair of aces are healthy. Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez should not be the top two pitchers on any staff but they would be suitable as the No. 4 and 5 options in the rotation. Anchor the rotation with Rodriguez and Sale at the top, find a viable third starter in free agency or on the trade market to plug in middle, then fill out the back end with Eovaldi and Perez.
That would be the makings of a formidable rotation but the success of this plan boils down to health. There are a lot of uncertainties in that area but the positive update on Rodriguez creates optimism for an improved Red Sox pitching staff in 2021.