Eduardo Rodriguez won’t start for the Red Sox on Opening Day
One of the primary reasons for optimism heading into this season was the return of Eduardo Rodriguez to rescue a Boston Red Sox rotation that was in shambles last year. That enthusiasm will be put on hold temporarily.
Manager Alex Cora confirmed on Friday that Rodriguez will not make his anticipated start on Opening Day after his last exhibition start raised some concerns.
Rodriguez looked sharp during his first three starts of spring training, a very encouraging sign for a pitcher who was sidelined for the entire 2020 season. The lefty allowed only three earned runs through his first 11 2/3 innings.
His last outing was more of a struggle as Rodriguez had to grind to get through two innings. He allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and issued the only two walks he’s allowed this spring.
Rodriguez appeared to hit a wall in that fourth appearance. The outcome isn’t entirely unexpected considering his lengthy absence due to a serious medical condition. This setback is unrelated to the myocarditis that kept him away from the mound last year but missing an entire season makes it more challenging for Rodriguez to build up his arm strength. The Red Sox are wisely going to allow his body to dictate when he’s ready and it won’t be in time for the season opener next week.
"“I think it’s just dead arm,” said Cora. “He didn’t feel as strong as the previous outings, arm-wise. Shoulder, arm. There’s nothing specific there. He’s pushing. He pushed hard for Thursday. The smart thing from our end is to play it smart. Take the decision away from the player and we made the decision for him. As far as the schedule, it doesn’t add up.”"
Rodriguez played catch yesterday and is scheduled for a bullpen tomorrow. The team will see how he feels before determining the next step but it’s possible that Rodriguez could avoid a stint on the injured list.
Nathan Eovaldi will get the nod on Opening Day instead but the Red Sox haven’t lined up their rotation beyond that.
Boston has an off day next Friday separating their first two games of the regular season. Rodriguez could conceivably start the second game of the Baltimore series if all he needs is an extra couple of days. The Red Sox could also slot him in at the back of the rotation to give him a few additional days to prepare.
If Rodriguez misses his first turn through the rotation, the off day next week could allow the Red Sox to skip a fifth starter by going back to Eovaldi on April 6 against the Tampa Bay Rays on normal rest. They could run through the four starters for a second trip through the rotation before another off day on Friday, April 9.
Ideally, Rodriguez will be back on the mound by the time the Red Sox need a fifth starter but the schedule only does them a favor for a limited time. If he can’t go by the April 15 game in Minnesota, Rodriguez will land on the injured list.
Boston has some options if Rodriguez misses more time than expected to open the season. Tanner Houck was a mess in spring training and will open the season in Triple-A but if he recaptures the form we saw last September, he could get called up in mid-April if a roster spot opens by placing E-Rod on the IL.
The Red Sox informed Rule 5 draft pick Garrett Whitlock that he made the team, providing the bullpen with a long-relief option to pair with Matt Andriese. Both pitchers are stretched out enough to log a few innings and they could piggy-back off one another to provide a full starter’s workload as a temporary solution.
The Red Sox are expected to carry only three position players on the bench, with backup catcher Kevin Plawecki and utility man Marwin Gonzalez locked into two of them. That leaves Michael Chavis and Christian Arroyo as the primary options battling for the last spot. If the Red Sox end up placing Rodriguez on the IL, it will be interesting to see if they replace him with another pitcher or use it as an opportunity to reward both hitters for their impressive spring performances.
The setback for Rodriguez is discouraging but it doesn’t appear to be a serious issue. The Red Sox are acting out of an abundance of caution. While we’re all eager to see Eddie Aces back on the mound, the depth that the team has added to improve this pitching staff allows the Red Sox to be patient.