fb-pixel Skip to main content

Ladies and gentlemen of Red Sox Nation, your team seems to have a bona fide young stud pitcher.

Too soon, you say? Perhaps. But for a team that has played like “bleep,” according to principal owner John Henry (who also owns the Globe), why not break through the black cloud with a little sunshine?

After all, we did wait beyond Eduardo Rodriguez’s first start — which was an outstanding effort against the Texas Rangers last week — to withhold our full enthusiasm and kudos for the hard-throwing lefthander with electric stuff.

Sometimes that first start is all about adrenaline and the fact the opponent has not seen you. So we awaited the second start.

Advertisement



Now, Rodriguez (can we take the liberty of calling him “E-Rod,” as Dave O’Brien did on the radio broadcast?) didn’t pitch a no-hitter, as Clay Buchholz did in his second major league start, but he backed up the oohs and aahs of the first start with another outstanding game Wednesday afternoon: seven innings, two hits, one run, two walks, and seven strikeouts in a 6-3 win over the Twins at Fenway Park. The Sox dropped the nightcap, 2-0.

E-Rod was not developed by Boston, except for the brief time he spent in Portland and Pawtucket in finishing school, but the Red Sox understood the value that Andrew Miller had to about 12 teams that were trying to acquire him at last year’s trading deadline. The Red Sox insisted on getting Rodriguez from the Orioles or no deal.

Baltimore general manager Dan Duquette begrudgingly obliged.

And so here we are in early June, the Red Sox desperately trying to flip the switch on their bleepy season.

The hope now is that their 22-year-old pitcher can blend in with Buchholz, Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, and Joe Kelly to form a much better starting rotation.

Advertisement



When manager John Farrell was asked whether Rodriguez would stay with Boston or go back to Pawtucket, he said, “If he goes to Pawtucket, it’s on his way to Baltimore” — where the Red Sox play next week.

Rodriguez likely has joined Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart in the untouchable ranks. And that means the Red Sox are moving farther away from a deal for Cole Hamels or any other top-of-the-line starting pitcher because they’re taking three of their top young players off the table. As a National League executive said, “Who does that?”

Not the teams that are serious about improving with an ace. The Red Sox may be thinking they’ll improve their rotation with a rookie.

Farrell is already using words like “special” and “poised” and “impressive” to describe Rodriguez.

“We felt that after the debut, he interjected energy and optimism,” said Farrell. “He’s a pleasure to watch. He throws mid-90s with deception.”

The Red Sox are merely trying to survive, to move closer to .500 and hang around the other underachievers in the AL East.

They are now employing four very young players, ages 22-23 — at catcher (Swihart), shortstop (Xander Bogaerts), center field (Betts), and starting pitcher (Rodriguez).

This can be both good and bad. We saw the pitfalls of relying on too many young players in 2014.

And there is one important side note we must consider with E-Rod: Young pitchers come with automatic innings restrictions.

Rodriguez’s professional high for innings in a season is 145 between Single A and Double A in 2013. Last season, he combined for 120 innings in Double A. This year, he threw 48⅓ innings at Pawtucket before being called up.

Advertisement



Major league innings are far more stressful and intense than the minors. How far will the Red Sox go before they pull the plug, or how will they restrict his innings late this summer?

That will be the great issue at some point.

Tuesday, we saw where lefty prospect Brian Johnson was skipped in the Pawtucket rotation. That’s an attempt to slow down his innings accumulation so that he may be able to help the parent team this season.

Kelly may be a veteran, but he never has thrown more than 124 innings in a season. His innings total has been reduced because of ineffectiveness, but if he starts to pitch well and get deep into games, his innings could become an issue. And of course, Buchholz has never reached 200 innings.

We may be getting ahead of ourselves, but it’s just something to watch if E-Rod continues to be a shutdown starter.

In Texas, E-Rod shut down a good-hitting lineup in a hitter’s ballpark (7⅔ innings, no runs, three hits, two walks, seven strikeouts). On Wednesday afternoon, he shut down the Twins, one of the hottest teams in baseball, in another hitter-friendly ballpark.

Brian Dozier took him deep for a home run in the third inning on a 1-and-1 fastball that was low and well-placed in the zone. Dozier went down and got it, driving it over the Green Monster to tie the game at 1-1.

Advertisement



E-Rod struck out six batters through the first three innings. When he came off after a 1-2-3 seventh inning, the crowd, anticipating that would be his last inning, gave him a robust ovation.

What went right?

“Slider on the outside and inside, my changeup, my two-seamer and fastball were good, too,” E-Rod said. “I just want to do the best I can. Throw strikes and get people out. I tried to keep my body and mind controlled. Didn’t want to get too excited.”

Plenty of people are doing that for him.

The Twins could manage only two hits off Rodriguez — Dozier’s homer and a single by No. 9 hitter Danny Santana in the sixth inning.

Rodriguez had 1-2-3 innings in the second, fourth, fifth, and seventh. He threw 103 pitches in seven innings.

He put two runners on in the sixth when Santana singled (he took second on a wild pitch) and Dozier walked. But he wiggled out of the jam.

“Get a ground ball or a double,” said E-Rod, when asked what he was thinking.

Two very impressive starts. I’m all in. Sold.

Maybe because E-Rod has provided a little sunshine on this bleeping season.


Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.