Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez shows rust and promise in his return

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - APRIL 08: Starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez #57 of the Boston Red Sox throws to a Baltimore Orioles batter in the first inning during the Orioles home opener at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 08, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - APRIL 08: Starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez #57 of the Boston Red Sox throws to a Baltimore Orioles batter in the first inning during the Orioles home opener at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 08, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Eduardo Rodriguez finally made his return to the Red Sox today

A day that was a long time coming and has seen several hiccups in the road up to this point has finally come and gone. Boston Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez has battled back from COVID, heart complications, and dead arm on his journey to be on the mound this afternoon in Baltimore. It wasn’t a flawless day for the big southpaw but it was a day that saw great success in the grander scheme of things.

Just getting back on the mound was a huge step for Rodriguez because at a point it seemed like that was more than uncertain. He has recounted his battle with COVID and myocarditis on a few occasions and it sounds like the lefty went through hell, so to see him on the bump in Camden Yards was beyond awesome. After the game, both he and Alex Cora spoke about how special the day was not just for Eddie and his family but for the organization as well.

"“It’s a testament where he’s at in his career, who he is as a person,” Cora added. “I know it’s a big day for him. I’m happy everything went well. I’m happy for his family. Very happy for him.”"

As I said above, he not only showed promise of the old Eduardo in his return but there was definitely some rust. His pitches and location weren’t as crisp as we’d seen in spring training and unfortunately, that’d bite him big as he gave a two-run homer to Ryan Mountcastle and another solo bomb to Pedro Severino. However, those would be the only runs that the Orioles would score on the afternoon as the bullpen would come in and freeze them out.

E-Rod would finish with a 5.0/4H/0BB/3R/3ER/7K and finished with a 5.40 ERA. The ERA doesn’t concern me at all because as we’ve talked about here, those runs all came by the way of the longball. With more outings coming he’ll be able to get that number down as long as he stops serving up free passes to the opposition. The five innings also don’t worry as that’s been the standard for the Red Sox starters so far in 2021 with Nathan Eovaldi finally breaking that threshold in his last start.

So the rust side of the coin is stuff that will all settle itself with more time on the mound as he was cruising through spring training until his final start killed that momentum. Let’s talk about the promise now as there’s plenty to be taken away in that aspect from his first start since 2019. The first thing that caught my eye as I was watching him work yesterday was the lack of walks. We all know that Eddie is not a guy that is afraid to walk batter or two. Hell, he led the AL in 2019 with 75 of them, his best career year.

"“When I went out there in the first inning, I was feeling like my first start in the big leagues,” Rodriguez said. “That’s how I was feeling right away as soon as I got in the first inning. My body was all chills. It’s not like nervous. It’s just like I was too excited to go out there.”"

For him to walk away without a single free pass to Baltimore in his first true start in nearly 600 days is fantastic. Will he be able to keep that streak alive, probably not for long, but I’ll take it for this one day. The other big takeaway from yesterday afternoon is the strikeout total. Being able to sit down seven batters in just five innings is pretty damn good. His K/9 currently sits at 12.60%, again, pretty good for a guy who was having trouble just doing basic physical activity not too long ago.

Now that we’re one trip through the rotation I’m expecting Cora to settle in with his guys and to get E-Rod back toward the top of the starters. I do wish that he would adjust his game plan and recall Tanner Houck to create a six-man rotation to allow an extra day of rest but I doubt that will happen. Considering the injury history of his starters, it seems like a no-brainer, but the skipper is deadset on following the plan he and his coaches created in spring.

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It was such a joy to see E-Rod back on the mound for the Red Sox yesterday afternoon and it was awesome to see the pure joy on his face being able to do what he loves to do. You could see the emotion on his face that it finally hit that he was back on the mound and about to pitch in a Major League Baseball game. He mentioned that he wasn’t going to dwell on his performance on the day and wanted to focus more on the fact that he was finally back with his teammates, something that I’m sure seemed impossible last year.

"“It was a special day for me,” Rodriguez said. “As soon as I got on the mound and even before I threw the first pitch, I was like, ‘No matter what the score is or what happens today, I’m just going to enjoy this game.’”"

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Eduardo Rodriguez has finally seen his long journey back to the Red Sox come to an end. There were plenty of bumps in the road and times where I’m sure it seemed like he may never get to this point, but he did. Through hard work, perseverance, and trust in those around him and himself, he was back and looked damn good. Boston needs every weapon in their arsenal if they want to compete this year, and it sure sounds like they do. Having E-Rod back in the rotation just gives Alex Cora another tool that he can use when the time calls for it.