Eduardo Rodriguez has made four rehab starts with Triple A Pawtucket, each time upping his workload — he threw 100 pitches on Saturday — but manager John Farrell said the Red Sox are still waiting for the hard-throwing 23-year-old to fully regain his form.
With no reason to rush his return, Rodriguez will make one more start with the PawSox on Thursday.
“We’d still like to see, I think, an uptick in performance in general,” Farrell said. “Health-wise, he felt good coming out of it. And while [Saturday] is, I think, a slight improvement over his previous start and certainly over two starts ago, he’s going to make his next start in Pawtucket.”
Rodriguez gave up a pair of solo homers in a 3-2 loss to Gwinnett on Saturday. His fastball, which typically maxed out around 97 m.p.h. last season, was sitting at 94 m.p.h.
Farrell has said in the past that the team isn’t looking for Rodriguez to reach benchmark velocity in order to feel comfortable bringing him back up. But the fact that Rodriguez isn’t throwing his hardest might be a sign that he still isn’t completely comfortable after returning from a knee injury that’s sidelined him since spring training.
“‘[It’s] not back to the level that we’ve been accustomed to seeing from Eduardo,” Farrell said. “So again, I don’t want to say that there’s a magic velocity number that we’re waiting to see, but I think what that measure is telling us is that he might be still a little bit reserved and that’s not completely uncommon for a pitcher getting over an injury.”
With the Sox sitting nine games over .500, the need to bring Rodriguez back isn’t quite as urgent. The Sox also have the luxury of two off days over the next eight days.
“I think any time you look at a player, you’re hopeful that you do right by them,” Farrell said. “He’s not back to the levels that he pitched at here last year. So does it buy us a little bit of time? That’s one factor. We also have the two off days coming up that we don’t have to insert a fifth starter per se. So we’ll take advantage of the opportunity to go one more time with him [in Pawtucket].”
Joe Kelly will make his third rehab start on Monday with Pawtucket.
When Ryan Hanigan steps to the plate, Farrell throws the numbers out the window.
His .149 average coming into Sunday’s win over the Astros wasn’t as important as the pitch counts he runs up, the runners he moves over, or any of the invisible at-bats that wind up being quietly critical.
“He’s a competitive at-bat,” Farrell said. “I don’t even look at the batting average with Hanny. There’s a competitive at-bat every time he steps into the box. He can do some things as far as manufacturing a run, moving a runner over, hitting behind a runner. He’s a veteran guy that knows the strike zone, knows his strengths and maybe his limitations as a hitter.”
Hanigan left his fingerprints all over the box score. In one day, he managed to crank out more hits than he had all month, going 3 for 4 with four RBIs. It was his first three-hit, four-RBI game since 2014 when he was a Tampa Bay Ray.
It was just his second multi-hit game of the season, but he was confident that the numbers would eventually start to show some of the intangible production.
“I’ve been working on my swing a lot with [hitting coach] Chili [Davis], and it’s been paying off,” Hanigan said. “It was nice to contribute. It was a high-scoring game, so we needed those runs today.”
Rutledge in thick of it
David Ortiz was out of the lineup, which meant Hanley Ramirez slid into his spot at DH, Travis Shaw moved to first, and Josh Rutledge made his fifth start of the season.
The lineup shuffle didn’t stop the offense from humming. The Sox still put up double-digit runs for the fifth time in the past seven games.
Rutledge was right in the thick of things, going 3 for 4 with a double and three runs scored. It was his first three-hit game since coming to the Red Sox last season in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers for Shane Victorino.
“He’s been in such a good place offensively since he’s come over here last September,” Farrell said. “He’s made a fundamental adjustment, he’s become a little bit more of a threat with the bat.
“Any time you can go to your bench and step in and we don’t seemingly skip a beat, I think it says a lot about the depth of the roster.”
Rutledge made back-to-back starts for the first time this season. He said he’s settling into the role that’s been carved out for him.
“I’ve been in the role in the past on other teams,” Rutledge said. “So just doing work during the game, being ready whenever I’m called on. I think that’s the biggest thing: staying ready.
“I’m good for whatever role helps the team win. That’s all I really care about is winning at the end of the day.”
Buchholz to stay in rotation
Clay Buchholz has allowed five runs in five of his first eight starts. His 6.11 ERA is the highest in the Sox rotation, his 61.2 percent strike rate is the lowest of his career, and lineups have taken advantage of him early, scoring 19 runs in the first two innings against him this season.
With Kelly and Rodriguez returning soon, the question is whether Farrell will make space for one of them by removing Buchholz.
Farrell, however, was firm when he said he intended to keep Buchholz in the rotation. He also acknowledged that Buchholz clearly had issues to work out on the mound.
“It’s not a matter of stuff, and I wouldn’t say it’s pitch selection,” Farrell said. “It comes down to location. And that was the case [Saturday], whether it’s falling behind in counts, a walk mixed in or a pitch that leaks back to the middle of the plate that is squared up.
“And it’s seemingly showing it’s head in the first couple of innings. So these are things that he’s living, we’re living, we’re aware of, the conversation centers around that. He brings plenty of stuff to the mound to win. Now it comes down to execution.”
After an 0-for-4 performance that left him with a .341 average, the Red Sox informed Benintendi that he’ll be promoted on Monday to Double A Portland.
For more on Benintendi’s promotion, click here.