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Rodriguez’s latest issue has to be seen as a red flag

Eduardo Rodriguez was limited to 20 starts last season after getting hurt in spring training.jim davis/globe staff/Globe Staff

It’s late December and already there’s news of Eduardo Rodriguez leaving a winter-ball game, after, in Dave Dombrowski’s words, “tweaking” his right knee Tuesday night.

Dombrowski added that the injury did not appear serious. The Red Sox lefthander left in the first inning after facing four batters (three of whom had hits) for precautionary reasons.

“Tweaking” and “not serious ” and “precautionary” usually mean just that. In this case, there’s more of a red flag since this is the same knee that delayed E-Rod’s 2016 debut until May 31.

Rodriguez originally injured the knee 10 months ago, in a Feb. 28 spring training drill, then suffered a setback in April. The fact that there’s still a “tweak” does raise some concern.


E-Rod is a young pitcher with much promise. After being acquired from Baltimore at the trading deadline in 2014 for Andrew Miller, he showed signs in 2015 that he could emerge as elite. Considering Miller’s status right now as perhaps the best reliever in baseball, a lot has been expected from Rodriguez.

It has been assumed that Rodriguez would have the No. 4 or 5 spot in the Red Sox rotation next season. The feeling was that he would excel because of the experience he has gained and from being healthy. Now his health has to be questioned again.

Because the incident happened in Venezuela, we really don’t know what it looked like.

One report had Rodriguez collapsing as he delivered what would be his final pitch. He had allowed three straight singles before getting an out. A “collapse” is certainly a sign of weakness in the knee. Is this injury an issue again?

Rodriguez has thrown 10⅓ innings in Venezuela, allowing nine hits and two earned runs with three walks and 12 strikeouts. He was building up toward pitching for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic in March. It’s not known whether this injury affects those plans.


The incident illustrates the vulnerability of a pitching staff. It can look dynamite one day and suspect the next.

The Red Sox have three elite starters in David Price, Rick Porcello, and Chris Sale. Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz were All-Stars last season but both ended the season with injury concerns.

Wright, dealing with bursitis in his right shoulder, didn’t pitch after Aug. 31. Pomeranz was removed from the rotation with a flexor tendon issue but returned to the bullpen for one more appearance in the regular season and one in the postseason. This was after the Red Sox were duped on his medicals by the Padres concerning an ongoing forearm and elbow issue.

Rodriguez also suffered a “mild” hamstring strain against the Orioles Aug. 16. He came out of the game in the fifth inning, having allowed no hits. The night before his next start, he opted out, forcing manager John Farrell to go with emergency starter Henry Owens. The result was a 10-5 loss.

The Red Sox didn’t seem pleased with E-Rod’s last-minute pass.

“We’re not going to put a guy in harm’s way,” Farrell said at the time. “If he doesn’t feel he can make the pitches necessary given the circumstances coming off the mound in Baltimore, you have to take him at his word.”

This all could be minor, nothing to worry about. But with a pitcher who has had a recurring issue with his knee, it could be something more.


The Red Sox will do their due diligence medically to make sure everything has healed. To see Rodriguez miss more time at a juncture in his career when he could be reaching the elite level would be a shame.

There are checkpoints every young pitcher must hit before truly “getting there.” Last season, Rodriguez needed to use some of his secondary pitches more, and he seemed to do that.

The strength in the knee definitely affects his delivery and his velocity.

When he first came back, you could tell he didn’t trust the knee enough, and his outings suffered. That gradually got better, and E-Rod looked more like the electric pitcher he was at times in 2015. He pitched a beauty in Oakland Sept. 4, taking a no-hitter into the eighth.

While it’s great to have three elite pitchers, having a potential fourth is even better — unless an old injury derails him.

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