Boston Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez can make his mark

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

After dealing with a knee injury last season, Eduardo Rodriguez is ready to contribute to an already stellar Boston Red Sox rotation.

Through the first eight games, the Boston Red Sox starting pitching has been pretty much perfect. Chris Sale, the bonafide ace, has allowed just one run in two starts. David Price, a number one on just about any other team, has pitched 14 scoreless innings. Rick Porcello looks nothing like the guy who led the MLB in losses in 2017. Even fill-ins Brian Johnson and Hector Velasquez combined for just 2 earned runs in their two combined starts.

Now, Eduardo Rodriguez is ready to add his own talents to the mix. On Sunday, the southpaw will close the series for the Boston Red Sox in his first start of the year.

For E-Rod, this season will be a pivotal one. After arriving in Boston in 2015, the once Oriole prospect looked like a young star. In his first season with the Sox, he went 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 21 starts. However, in 2016, he digressed going 3-7 with a 4.71 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 20 starts.

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Going into 2017, there was no consensus for Rodriguez. Did he have one lucky season? Is he more average than ace? Well, Eduardo proved any doubters wrong at the start of last year. Through June 1, the young lefty went 4-2 with a 3.54 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 10 starts. The walks were still an issue, (over 3 per 9 innings) but overall Rodriguez was carving out a spot as a strong third or fourth option. On a team with Chris Sale and David Price, that was nothing to sneeze at. He was sufficient in the role the Boston Red Sox asked him to fill.

Not the same guy

Then came the fateful injury. Before a start in Baltimore on June 1, Rodriguez slipped during a bullpen session. He felt some discomfort in his knee but was determined able to pitch. He gave up 7 runs on 8 hits in 5 and 2/3 innings, picking up the loss. Obviously, something was wrong.

From there, he was placed on the 10-day DL but would miss six weeks with the knee injury. And even when he did come back, things didn’t go so well. E-Rod admitted that he was pitching “scared” because of the knee. The stats support that notion. He went 2-5 with a 4.72 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 14 starts. In the playoffs, he couldn’t even make it through one inning out of the bullpen.

Ready for a change

So what should fans expect from Rodriguez this year? I would say, health permitting, a solid year that builds off of last spring. At this point, I wouldn’t expect Chris Sale or David Price level pitching. Even though he is still young, that doesn’t seem to be the trajectory his career will have.

Instead, the best realistic season E-Rod can have is to keep opponents on their toes a few days after a Sale/Price combo. He can’t be the guy teams can relax on just because they aren’t facing a Cy Young candidate. When Eduardo takes the mound, we should be thinking “Ok, the Sox have a good chance tonight” no matter the opponent.

Looking at the big picture, Rodriguez has the chance to close out what may be the very best rotation in baseball by the end of the season. When Drew Pomeranz comes back, the Sox rotation will feature four strong lefties and Porcello. If things stay the way they look and Pomeranz/Rodriguez look good, things are starting to get hot in the oven.

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So, when Rodriguez steps on the rubber at Fenway, he better be ready. Things could start to get interesting.