Boston Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez expects to be ready for 2021.
Rodriguez contracted COVID-19 in July, delaying his arrival to summer camp when the Red Sox regrouped to prepare for the shortened season. He eventually joined his teammates at Fenway Park after testing negative for the virus but was soon shut down with what turned out to be myocarditis, a heart condition that he developed as a result of the coronavirus.
While the team initially believed this to be a minor setback, the condition was serious enough to sideline Rodriguez for the entire season. It was only recently that Rodriguez was medically cleared to begin walking on a treadmill, which goes to show how far off he was from getting back on the mound.
It’s been a rough road to recovery for Rodriguez but there is growing optimism that he’ll be ready for next season. According to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, the agent for Rodriguez, Scott Pucino of Octagon, is “very confident” that his client will return completely healthy.
"“(Rodríguez) is really excited, to be honest with you,” said Pucino. “He’s following a strict training regimen and just making sure he does whatever the doctors tell him to do. He’ll be ready, 100 percent. We’re very confident about that.”"
Rodriguez had hoped to use this season to build on his career year in 2019 when he went 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA and 9.4 K/9 top finish sixth on the AL Cy Young ballot.
Without Rodriguez, the Red Sox pitching staff was among the worst in baseball this year, owning the third-worst ERA in the majors at 5.58 and ranking dead-last with -0.2 WAR, per FanGraphs. The stating rotation showed some late-season improvement with the additions of Tanner Houck and Nick Pivetta but still finished 25th in the majors with a collective 5.34 ERA.
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Any pitching staff would struggle if they lost one of their best pitchers but the Red Sox lost two of them. Chris Sale joined Rodriguez on the injured list while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Sale’s timeline is a bit behind E-Rod’s but he’s expected to rejoin the rotation by mid-season next year, giving Boston a tremendous boost with a pair of ace-caliber pitchers.
The rest of the rotation will appear much improved when viewed as the No. 3-5 starters rather than the top trio with replacement-level options rotating behind them. A rotation of Sale, Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez looks solid if everyone is healthy. Houck and Pivetta could fill out the back end of the rotation with the least productive starter getting bounced when Sale returns.
The Red Sox might still go shopping for pitchers in free agency this winter. It never hurts to add depth, particularly with the uncertainty surrounding Sale. They might find an upgrade for the middle of the rotation over Perez, who has a club option that has yet to be picked up for next season.
Optimism that Rodriguez will be good to go for spring training will reduce the urgency to overhaul the rotation. E-Rod’s return will add some stability to a staff that struggled without a clear leader to anchor them. With Rodriguez likely to be the team’s Opening Day starter next year, things are already looking up for the 2021 Red Sox.