Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez has Comeback Player of the Year potential

Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez prepares to mount his comeback

Today is the day, Red Sox Nation! Baseball is back in our lives and it may look something remotely normal this season as teams are pushing to have at least a limited number of fans in the stands. For Boston, it’s going to be a year of redemption and transition into a new-look squad while they turn the page toward the next chapter. On a larger scale, this spring will see the return of lefty Eduardo Rodriguez as he prepares to make his return to the mound.

As we all know, ahead of last season E-Rod battled COVID, and his telling of the experience should send chills down your spine. Not only did he have to deal with the virus but he would also fall lucky in developing a case of myocarditis, which has become a known possible side effect. After a period of having trouble breathing and not being able to do even the most basic tasks, Eddie Aces is ready to get back on the mound and says he’s at full strength.

His return couldn’t come at a better time as the Red Sox starting rotation is the dictionary definition of fluid. Chris Sale is still on the shelf and depending on how this season goes, we may not see him in 2021. Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez will be returning alongside new faces in Matt Andriese and Garrett Richards. Then we also have Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck who both shined in their short stints with Boston in 2020.

This rotation suffered greatly from not having that anchor at the front of the rotation even with Evo and Perez doing their absolute best to hold down the fort. Neither guy is a true #1 and getting Rodriguez back on the bump at the front of the line will help Cora right that ship, or at least attempt to. We heard from E-Rod back around the holidays that he had been cleared by doctors to begin working out again and with the time frame, he’d be firing on all cylinders for spring.

Well, friends, that time has come and now the real questions are going to begin forming. Will AC put him on an inning restriction until we get further into the season? Will Eddie come out of the gates looking sharp now that he’s had time to rest, recover and heal? Will any of this actually mean anything or are we in store for another season of dreadful baseball? All are fair and all are honestly understandable after that slog of a campaign that was the 2020 Red Sox calendar.

Before he had to miss out on 2020 due to COVID, Rodriguez was coming into his prime and saw career years under Cora in both 2018 and 2019. The southpaw would fall just one game short of hitting his 20th win in ’19, a goal he set at the beginning of the season. Thanks, Matt Barnes!

Even though he didn’t hit that marker, E-Rod did achieve his other goals finishing the season with a 19-6/3.81/203.1/1.326 line. Partnering those numbers with an MLB leading 34 starts and 213 strikeouts, he would finish sixth in Cy Young voting. Granted he also led the AL with 75 walks, but that’s neither here nor there.

We know what he can do when he’s healthy and if he’s truly past all of his ailments, then there’s no reason to doubt he can get back to those stats in 2021. Many of you will point to the fact that he hasn’t pitched since spring training last year and that’s a fair criticism of my optimism. But to me what that says is that not only has he been able to recover from his bout with the coronavirus, but his body has also been able to heal from any nagging injuries that were lingering.

The Red Sox will need Eddie to be in top form for this year if they want any chance to succeed and get out of the baseball basement. Pitching was the major Achilles’ Heel of this team in 2020 and getting back one of their strongest arms will be a step in the right direction. His comeback in and of itself is an awesome story even if there are some stumbling blocks along the way. I for one can’t wait to see the videos of Eddie Aces chucking down in Fort Myers.

I’m not putting Rodriguez on the level of an Alex Smith from this past football season as that was beyond a miracle of an accomplishment. But the lefty is the first guy that comes to mind that really shared his symptoms and what he went through, then add in the myocarditis, and the script writes itself. He comes to camp and shakes off the rust on the road to Opening Day where he shows that he’s healthy and back to running the show for the Boston starters.

This is going to be a massive year for Rodriguez not just because of everything that he’s gone through over the last year but because his future also rests on this season. E-Rod will be a free agent next winter and a strong effort this year could see him land a nice payday, preferably with the Red Sox. At the end of the day, having the lefty healthy and back in the clubhouse will be a huge plus for Boston, and seeing him back on the mound pitching well will be a bright spot this season.