BRADENTON, Fla. — Eduardo Rodriguez emerged from the clubhouse at 9:20 on Saturday morning, picked up a baseball, and started playing catch with catching coach Jason Varitek.
About 30 minutes later, the Red Sox felt a lot better about their rotation.
Rodriguez threw 36 pitches off a bullpen mound and said afterward that the arm fatigue that cut short his last start had dissipated.
“I feel really good, threw all my pitches, feel strong,” Rodriguez said. “Today I was feeling really good.”
After watching him struggle to get through two innings on Monday, the Sox decided to bump Rodriguez off his Opening Day assignment and left open the possibility of him going on the injured list.
Now the outlook is considerably brighter.
“He was good. Better than we thought,” manager Alex Cora said. “He was able to throw all his pitches. Control was sharp. Now we’ll wait to see how he reacts [Sunday] and we’ll map it out from there. But he looked OK.”
From afar — reporters are not allowed near the bullpen because of COVID-19 protocols — Rodriguez worked at a good tempo with only a few pauses to adjust his mechanics.
The lefthander was not throwing at maximum effort but was clearly comfortable.
Rodriguez said his shoulder and elbow were never an issue. It was a case of what’s known within baseball as “dead arm,” a condition that sometimes occurs in spring training.
“For him to get back on the mound, it was a good step,” Cora said.
Barring another setback, Rodriguez could pitch the second or third game of the season.
“I don’t think I’m that far behind after the bullpen today. We’ve got to sit together [Sunday], again, and see how I feel,” he said. “I feel I’m already stretched to throw four, five innings or six. Just need to feel stronger to throw all those innings.”
Rodriguez agreed with the decision to scratch him from Opening Day.
“It was hard for me because everyone wants to go out and do Opening Day one time in their career,” he said. “But I think we made the right decision.
“I don’t want to go out there and it doesn’t feel 100 percent and [I’m] just throwing the ball. I want to be pitching, not just throwing the ball.”
Christian Vazquez, who was hit in the face with a ball on Thursday, returned to camp and is feeling better, according to Cora. The catcher should be ready for Opening Day and could be back in the lineup as soon as Sunday … J.D. Martinez was 0 for 3 in a 7-4 victory against the Pirates. He is 11 of 44 in spring training without a home run … The Sox and Braves agreed to play seven innings in Tuesday’s spring training finale at JetBlue Park.