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Red Sox Journal: E-Rod 'trending the right way'

Providence Journal logo Providence Journal 4/5/2021 Bill Koch, The Providence Journal
Eduardo Rodríguez standing on a baseball field: Published Caption: Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, seen here at spring training before the pandemic shut down baseball, was the presumed Opening Day starter. But now that he is ill with COVID-19, that looks doubtful. [USA TODAY Sports, file / Kim Klement] Original Caption: Mar 11, 2020; Port Charlotte, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) walks back to the dugout at the end of the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports © Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports, file Published Caption: Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, seen here at spring training before the pandemic shut down baseball, was the presumed Opening Day starter. But now that he is ill with COVID-19, that looks doubtful. [USA TODAY Sports, file / Kim Klement] Original Caption: Mar 11, 2020; Port Charlotte, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) walks back to the dugout at the end of the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON — Eduardo Rodriguez threw a pregame bullpen session at Fenway Park on Monday. 

The left-hander was hard at work about three hours before the first pitch between the Red Sox and Rays. Rodriguez continues to make his way back from the dead arm he experienced late in spring training — he's officially on the injured list due to left elbow inflammation. 

“The fact that he’s throwing a bullpen means things are trending the right way and he should be OK,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “This is the last hurdle if you want to call it that. We’ll see how he feels about this one and how we feel, and we’ll make a decision.” 

Rodriguez threw a simulated game on Friday at Triple-A Worcester, which is functioning as the alternate site for other members of the Boston player pool until its season opener. He was scratched from what was supposed to be an Opening Day start, ceding the honor to Nathan Eovaldi for the second straight year. 

Rodriguez would be eligible to come off the injured list for Boston’s first road game of the season. The Red Sox face the Orioles on Thursday, as Baltimore will open Camden Yards for 2021 with a special afternoon start. Martin Perez and Eovaldi are scheduled to pitch the final two games of this series with Tampa Bay. 

“They’ve got a good team, but we’ve got a good team, too,” Perez said. “We’ve just got to go out there and do our jobs. Play as a team.” 

Activating Rodriguez would likely result in optioning Tanner Houck off the 26-man roster. The right-hander suffered a 4-2 defeat to Baltimore on Saturday despite allowing only two earned runs and striking out eight. Houck won all three of his starts after making his debut in September, and each of those victories came against eventual postseason clubs. 

“People might see it as, ‘Wow, he should be in the big leagues,’ ” Cora said. “At the same time, we’ve got more now compared to last year.  

“Those are tough decisions, but he’s business as usual. He's getting ready for his next one. That’s a testament to who he is. We’ve got some good guys like that.” 

Rodriguez, Nick Pivetta and Garrett Richards all represent additions from last season’s unprecedented Opening Day rotation in July. Rodriguez didn’t pitch after testing positive for COVID-19 and was eventually diagnosed with myocarditis. Pivetta was acquired in an August trade with the Phillies while Richards was signed to a one-year deal in free agency with a club option for 2022.  

A new nemesis

Tampa Bay has inflicted its fair share of misery upon Boston in recent seasons. 

The Rays entered Monday with a 19-7 record against the Red Sox in their last 26 games. Tampa Bay has dropped just one of the last eight series between the two clubs and carried an eight-game winning streak at Fenway Park. The Rays have lost just one of their last 14 games in the Back Bay. 

“They have a good program,” Cora said. “They have a good team. The thing about them is they don’t stop playing.” 

Tampa Bay reached the first of its two World Series in franchise history by outlasting Boston in seven games in the 2008 American League Championship Series. Matt Garza outdueled Jon Lester in the finale, a 3-1 Red Sox defeat at Tropicana Field. It was the last game of Cora’s four-year stint as a player with the club, which started with a July 2005 trade from Cleveland. 

“Since ‘08 they’ve believed they belong,” Cora said. “It’s a testament to how they run things and it’s a testament to the players they get and how good they are. They have their way and it’s really worked.” 

Boston’s front office was clearly impressed, as principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner hired away Chaim Bloom to serve as their chief baseball officer. The Rays won a combined 186 games in 2018 and 2019, setting up another appearance in October last season. The Dodgers outlasted Tampa Bay in six games to claim their first championship since 1988. 

An ill wind, for now

J.D. Martinez cracked the lone home run during the opening weekend series at Fenway Park. 

Martinez went deep to center in Sunday’s 11-3 Red Sox loss to the Orioles. Boston pitchers held Baltimore hitters without a round-tripper, the first time the Red Sox have managed that in 20 years. Boston lasted four games prior to give up its first home run in the 2001 season. 

Cora and his players are content to blame the chilly weather for now. Major League Baseball announced prior to the season it was making changes to its game balls, a perceived move to soften some of the offensive impact the game’s hitters have made in recent seasons. 

“I feel like I’ve only hit one ball that should have been a home run, and it was,” Martinez said. “I can’t complain yet.” 

A cold wind off the Charles River and in from left field was blowing again on Monday night. That tends to be the prevailing direction through the opening two months of the season here. The arrival of summer coincides with a warmer breeze that comes off land — behind home plate and out toward center field. 

“I don’t feel the difference,” said Perez, who is scheduled for his season debut on Tuesday night. “I’m not really focused on that. I just take the ball and throw strikes.” 

a close up of a baseball game: Apr 4, 2021; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) is greeted at the dugout by shortstop Jose Iglesias (4) after hitting a solo home run in the first inning of the game against the Chicago White Sox at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports © Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports Apr 4, 2021; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) is greeted at the dugout by shortstop Jose Iglesias (4) after hitting a solo home run in the first inning of the game against the Chicago White Sox at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Only one Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani impressed both at the plate and on the mound on Sunday night. 

The Angels phenom had the national stage to himself on ESPN and took full advantage. Ohtani crushed a solo home run to right field and fired fastballs at and above 100 mph in a two-way start against the White Sox. 

“I saw Ohtani hit a ball 900 feet and 900 mph off his bat,” Martinez said. “That was wild.” 

Jared Walsh cracked a walk-off three-run homer to give Los Angeles a 7-4 win over Chicago, but it was Ohtani who stole the headlines. He went deep off Dylan Cease in the bottom of the first, a 451-foot blast that left his bat at 115.2 mph. Ohtani topped out at 101.1 mph on his four-seam fastball and struck out Luis Robert on a wicked splitter at 92.6 mph in the top of the fourth. 

Martinez was asked if he’d ever flirted with being a two-way player. His last outing on the mound came at perennial state title contender Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla., a brief start against what was supposed to be a weaker league rival. Martinez was cuffed around early and given a quick hook by Falcons coach Ray Evans

“I gave up four runs in the second inning and I never pitched again,” Martinez said. “He said, ‘All right, get back to the outfield.’  

“I’m no Ohtani, that’s for sure.” 

bkoch@providencejournal.com  

On Twitter: @BillKoch25 

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Red Sox Journal: E-Rod 'trending the right way'

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