Eduardo Rodriguez arrived Sunday at his first interview of this summer camp with a Red Sox mask fully covering his mouth and nose, and relief in his voice knowing he was on the other side of COVID-19.
Rodriguez tested positive for the virus just before reporting to camp, and he felt all the symptoms. It was the sickest he’s ever been, he said.
“The first day, I started feeling a little bit of a headache, fever,” he said. “I know I had something in my body I never felt before. I just went home and stayed home the whole time. I don’t know exactly where I got it.”
Rodriguez, when it was just a headache, thought he could keep working out to stay in shape. But then came the relentless fever and forced inactivity. After losing so many days, Rodriguez started to question his availability to the team.
“After 13, 14 days, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be available to make it to the season,' " Rodriguez said. “I already [had] lost 14 days without baseball stuff.”
Rodriguez, whose wife also got sick, said he felt like he was “100 years old.” Improvement didn’t come for 8-10 days, when he felt up to light cardio and arm work.
Rodriguez was slated to start Opening Day. He took the ball for more than 200 innings last season for the Red Sox, becoming their ace in the absence of David Price and Chris Sale down the stretch. So, naturally, he carries some frustration about not being able to take the ball against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday.
“Every time you see your guys go out there and play, you know, it’s going to hurt,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going to hurt mentally. So, for me, it’s really hard to get the coronavirus and not be available Opening Day.”
Manager Ron Roenicke stayed in contact with Rodriguez throughout his recovery. Roenicke said the toughest part for him was seeing Rodriguez grapple with the fact he wouldn’t be available at the start of the season.
“He was still wanting to be that guy that was going to pitch Opening Day,” Roenicke said. “In my mind, I was thinking the timing doesn’t really work out well for that. I didn’t tell him that at the beginning, but I told him it was going to be very difficult.”
Rodriguez has started his progression. He threw a 25-pitch bullpen Saturday and said he felt strong coming out of it. There is a build-up process and the Red Sox are trying to be shrewd getting him back on the field. Yet in the shortened season, the Sox are pressed for time with a thin pitching staff made thinner when Collin McHugh officially opted out Sunday afternoon due to his slow recovery from a right flexor strain.
Just before spring training, Sale and Price were still in the rotation. With Sale’s Tommy John surgery and the Price trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers, there is no longer that cushion. Rodriguez is the best pitcher on this staff, and looking forward to getting back on the mound again.
But Sunday served as Rodriguez’s chance to warn the public on the risks of COVID-19, both inside and outside the baseball world. Much like on the field last season, he delivered, clear and succinct.
“I was one of those people that was really hit hard,” Rodriguez said. “You have to wear your mask all the time, wash your hands, keep your distance. If you’re one of those guys that [isn’t asymptomatic], man, you’re going to be in bed and have a hard time.”