Red Sox lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez, who had to curtail his physical activities in July because of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) that developed after he tested positive for COVID-19, has been cleared to resume light exercise.
Initially, the 27-year-old has been cleared to start taking walks. The Sox expect that in the coming weeks he’ll ramp up his activity and eventually be able to follow a normal offseason conditioning program.
Rodriguez, who went home at the start of August once his season was officially declared over, received the health update Thursday night in a Zoom session with front office members and training and medical staff.
“Really good news," Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said before Friday night’s game in Atlanta. "I talked to Eddie after the call and he was pretty excited. They’re hoping that his offseason will be normal and that he’ll be able to build himself up for next year.
"We’re all excited about it. Eddie was thrilled. Hopefully it will be a normal offseason and buildup, and he’ll be able to come out next year and have a great season.”
Even so, Roenicke acknowledged that Rodriguez faces a deliberate progression, given the level of concern with a heart issue. It may be a couple of weeks before he’s cleared to elevate his heart rate with treadmill walking.
“We know it’s still a slower process to build himself back up,” Roenicke said. “The good news is that he has been cleared to do that. I think once you’re cleared, you know that at some point, you’re going to get to that spot where you know you need to push yourself and physically be ready for the demands of a long season.”
The Sox viewed the news about Rodriguez as enormously important on multiple levels — first, in that he’s now viewed as healthy, and second, for the possibility that he will be able to return to the rotation next year. Rodriguez went 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA while finishing sixth in AL Cy Young voting in 2019.
“We expect him to have a pretty normal offseason, which is huge for us, huge for him, being able to be that type of pitcher,” Roenicke said.
Houck pitching for history
Righthander Tanner Houck (2-0, 0.00 ERA) will start Saturday in Atlanta. A win would make him the eighth Red Sox pitcher ever and the first since Anthony Ranaudo in 2014 to earn a win as a starter in each of his first three big league appearances.
Houck is one of 43 starting pitchers in big league history to win his first two career outings without allowing an earned run in either. No one has ever pulled that feat in three straight games at the outset of his career.
Because of his low arm slot and sinker/slider combination, Houck always has been projected to excel against righties — and he has, holding them to a 1-for-21 mark (.048) with nine strikeouts. Though lefties are just 2 for 14 (.143) against him, he’s struck out just two of them to this point.
In the big leagues, he’s rarely used the splitter he worked to develop as a third pitch against lefties at the alternate site in Pawtucket. Houck said that he’s talked to teammate Nate Eovaldi about how to throw and use the pitch, and he plans to focus on sharpening the splitter during the offseason.
“That’s been a pitch that I just started throwing in spring training,” Houck said. “I’ve seen a lot of growth with it this year.”
Waiting game for Roenicke
Roenicke said that he’ll spend two to three days in Boston following the season before heading home to California. Roenicke expects to meet with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom about his future status with the club during that time … Rafael Devers (ankle) and Xander Bogaerts both were out of the lineup Friday night to rest. Bobby Dalbec thus got his second start at third base, while Christian Arroyo made his first start at short. Jackie Bradley Jr. was slated to bat cleanup for just the second time in his career, the other coming on July 30, 2016. Roenicke expects Bogaerts and Devers to return to the lineup for the final two games of the season … The Sox placed reliever Domingo Tapia on the injured list, one day after the hard-throwing righthander was hit on the right biceps by a line drive. Righthander Austin Brice (right lat strain) was activated to take his spot. … MLB announced the latest results of its COVID-19 tests, with two new positive tests and none among the players over the week of Sept. 24. As of Friday, no player had tested positive in the prior 26 days.