FORT MYERS, Fla. — Eduardo Rodriguez pitched four scoreless innings against the Tampa Bay Rays in a spring training game last March 11. Baseball shut down the next day as the pandemic moved from concern to crisis.
Rodriguez became one of the millions of people worldwide who contracted COVID-19. It left him bedridden and feverish and with a case of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.
Doctors prescribed almost a complete shutdown of physical activities and Rodriguez sat out the season when it started in July.
He returned to the mound Friday afternoon, facing the Rays again. Rodriguez threw 46 pitches over 2⅔ innings and admitted afterward it was much more than a routine spring training game.
“It was a joy I had the opportunity to be back out there,” said Rodriguez, who allowed one run on two hits with two strikeouts.
Rodriguez felt unexpected emotions when he walked out to the bullpen to warm up with his catcher and close friend Christian Vazquez.
“I told him, ‘Bro, I feel chills. I feel all that right now like I’m making my MLB debut,’” Rodriguez said. “I feel that every start but today I was a little more excited.”
Scouts had Rodriguez topping out at 93 miles per hour, which is what he averaged in 2019.
A study published in the medical journal JAMA Cardiology reported only three of the 789 professional athletes in the United States who tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020 developed myocarditis.
Rodriguez and Buffalo Bills tight end Tommy Sweeney are known to be two of them. The third has not been identified.
Rodriguez has been fully cleared by doctors and is on the same schedule as the other Sox pitchers.
Rodriguez was set to be the Opening Day starter last season and missed out on that honor. Sox manager Alex Cora has not named his starter for this season.
“I’ll be 100 percent ready for any time AC gives me the ball,” Rodriguez said.
Even Game 1?
“Any game — 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. I will be 100 percent,” he said.
Eovaldi pushed back
Nate Eovaldi, who was scheduled to pitch Saturday, has been pushed back to Tuesday after missing a day in camp during the week for personal reasons.
The Sox will play five or six innings against the Twins at home Saturday and nine innings against the Braves in North Port on Sunday ahead of Monday’s off day.
Jimenez in camp
Gilberto Jimenez, a well-regarded 20-year-old center fielder, was added to the spring training roster as a non-roster invitee. The switch-hitter from the Dominican Republic had an .863 OPS in 59 games for Lowell in 2018 … The Sox agreed to contracts with 22 players with less than three years of service time. There were no renewals. Alex Verdugo ($649,500) and Nick Pivetta ($613,500) had the largest deals with the other players closer to the major league minimum of $570,500 … Xander Bogaerts has yet to play because of a sore shoulder but has started throwing again and should be in the lineup soon … First baseman Triston Casas, who was sent to Boston to be examined regarding a non-baseball medical issue, returned to camp. “Things are trending in the right direction, which is great,” Cora said. Casas, 21, is considered the organization’s top prospect … Franchy Cordero has been cleared to join workouts after being on the COVID injured list … Hirokazu Sawamura is lined up to throw live batting practice Tuesday or Wednesday ahead of getting into a game next weekend. The righthander has ample time to be ready for the season.
Staff writers Michael Silverman and Alex Speier contributed to this report.