Eduardo Rodriguez, who was to be the Opening Day starter for the Red Sox, has tested positive for COVID-19, manager Ron Roenicke said Tuesday.
The lefthander is home in Florida and feeling better, Roenicke said. But the longer he is out of camp, the less likely it becomes Rodriguez would be ready to face the Baltimore Orioles on July 24 at Fenway Park.
“He’s feeling a lot better but not 100 percent,” Roenicke said.
The Red Sox are now preparing righthander Nate Eovaldi to start the first game.
Rodriguez, 27, did not report to the resumption of spring training last week after telling the Sox he had contact with a person who had COVID-19 symptoms.
Before he can rejoin the Red Sox, Rodriguez must test negative twice at least 24 hours apart, be without a fever for 72 hours without the use of a suppressant drug, and complete an antibody test.
A team doctor and the Joint COVID-19 Health & Safety Committee also must approve. That four-person committee has representatives of MLB and the MLB Players Association and doctors appointed by each of those parties.
Roenicke said Rodriguez built up to four innings while working on his own. That process was stopped because of his illness and to at least some degree will have to be repeated once he starts pitching again.
Rodriguez is still doing some light exercising at the direction of the medical staff.
“When he’s feeling 100 percent they can start pushing him a little bit more. He’s under their direction,” Roenicke said.
Rodriguez has told the Sox he still wants to make what would be the first Opening Day start of his career. But the Sox are already deep into contingency plans for their rotation.
“This is a question that we’ve been talking about,” Roenicke said. “It just depends on how long this thing goes.”
Rodriguez was 19-6 with a 3.91 earned run average over a career-best 34 starts last season. He then started three games in spring training and allowed two earned runs over 11 innings while striking out 20.
If his absence lingers into the regular season, the Red Sox will have a thin rotation stretched even further. They also are scheduled to play 12 games in the first 13 days of the season.
Eovaldi is a capable starter but hasn’t gotten through a season without at least one stint on the injured list since 2015. Eovaldi is scheduled to start an intrasquad game on Thursday, which would line him up to start Opening Day.
Martin Perez, who was signed in December, is 12-14 with a 5.49 ERA the last two seasons. The Sox initially saw him as their No. 5 starter before David Price was traded to the Dodgers and Chris Sale was lost for the season following Tommy John surgery.
The other rotation candidates are Ryan Weber and Brian Johnson. Weber is 3-9 with a 5.04 ERA in parts of five seasons with four teams. He is 1-5 with a 5.96 ERA in 11 career starts.
Johnson had a 6.02 ERA in 21 games last season and was not claimed off waivers when he was taken off the 40-man roster in November. He is 6-6 with a 4.54 ERA in 26 career starts.
Johnson went three innings in a simulated game on Tuesday.
The Sox also have righthander Collin McHugh, a key member of Houston’s rotation from 2014-17. But he is still building up endurance after recovering from an elbow injury.
The Sox could use an opener in multiple rotation spots. But Roenicke’s preference would be to have at least four starters.
“I think we have enough candidates in camp that we can find that fourth guy,” he said. “Eddie is on me about being ready for Opening Day, so we’ll see where that goes.”
Third base prospect Bobby Dalbec also tested positive, Roenicke said, but is asymptomatic. He contracted the virus when he was home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He traveled to Boston and learned of his positive test then.
One of Dalbec’s close friends, Phillies infielder Scott Kingery, also tested positive.
Lefthanded relievers Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor also have tested positive and have yet to report.