The dust has settled and spring training games have begun. Mookie Betts has officially taken his first at-bat in a Dodgers uniform and judging from their opening press conference with the Los Angeles media, David Price appeared to be pretty happy with his new home. But with the departure of Price–regardless of how you felt about him during his time in Boston–the Red Sox lost a significant piece of their starting rotation. Some are calling 2020 a punt year, but with this roster and this lineup offensively, you still can make a viable push for at least a Wild Card spot.
You lost one of the best one-two punches in baseball between Chris Sale and Price at the top of your rotation. If the Red Sox want to compete in 2020–and they’ve made it crystal clear that they will be putting a competitive team out on the field–the importance of Eduardo Rodriguez has skyrocketed.
Since being dealt to the Red Sox from the Orioles in 2014 as apart of the Andrew Miller trade, there have been some high expectations for the young lefty. And we’ve seen strong stretches out of Rodriguez during his five seasons with the Red Sox. But those five seasons have also been riddled with injuries. It felt like each time the now 26-year-old was getting hot, some sort of strange injury would show up and it would be due to either a slip in the bullpen or something of that nature.
And 2019 wasn’t a great year for the Red Sox by any stretch of the imagination. Frankly, it was tough staying locked in once it became evident that this group–the reigning World Series champions–was going to miss the postseason all together and fall behind an organization whose payroll was equal to two of your top paid players. But if there was one bright spot to take away from 2019, it was the rise, if you want to call it that, of Eduardo Rodriguez.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s been fine during his time here. He’s easily been one of the more frustrating players on the roster though, due to the injuries and infrequent games where he’d get beaten mercilessly. But either way, he’s been a great number four man in the rotation for a majority of the time, and even a solid number three. In 2019 though, he proved that he could take hold of the number two slot in the rotation.
He finished off the year with a fine stat line that showed a 3.81 ERA with a WHIP of 1.328 in 34 starts (a career-high).
But it was the second half of the season that was eye-popping. From the start of July through the end of the regular season–again, because the Red Sox couldn’t even land a Wild Card spot–Rodriguez was one of the few reasons to keep tabs on Boston as the dreadful campaign of 2019 dragged on.
In those 17 starts, which is a pretty good sample size, he built an 11-2 record with an ERA sitting below 3.00 at 2.90 with a WHIP of 1.30.
In that same stretch of games, he threw 105.2 IP and surrendered more than 3 ER just three separate times in those 17 appearances.
The Red Sox are in a strange place right now. As eluded to before, the team continues to claim that their number one goal is to put a competitive team out on the field. The problem with saying that when you’re the Red Sox is when you have the type of funds that Boston does, it’s difficult to make the fanbase believe that’s truly the case when you’re pinching every penny that you possibly can. Oh, and while you also send arguably the best homegrown talent you’ve developed in the last 30 years to the west coast.
With their clear reluctant attitude to add to the roster by spending big, due to being hamstrung by the $208 million luxury tax mark, E-Rod’s role has become that much more important to putting a winning ballclub out on the field in 2020.
As it stands right now, it’s Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez and *fill in the blank*.
This team needs to pray that Sale’s nagging injuries are a thing of the past or at least something they can monitor and somewhat control. With Sale as the organization’s ace, the uncertainty behind him is, well, in a word, terrifying if success is a true goal.
Rodriguez is the only constant that you can rely on to be solid. Perez has something to prove but his numbers with Minnesota aren’t anything that will instill confidence in the fanbase. And you never know when Nathan Eovaldi will end up back on the injured list.
Eduardo Rodriguez is arguably the most important component of the 2020 Red Sox. He’s been forced into the two slot of your rotation. And with two guys who are coming off of injury-riddled seasons sandwiching him, his consistency and success are a must in 2020.
Another freak injury has already struck Rodriguez though to kick spring training off. During a bullpen session, he slipped and twisted his knee causing him to miss Sunday’s scheduled start. Though it is seen as just a minor injury.