Everyone always thought Eduardo Rodriguez would put it together and be a front-of-the-rotation starter someday. He was really getting close to being there in previous outings and especially Saturday until on a cover play at first base in the sixth inning when Rodriguez sprained his right ankle and had to come out of the game.
What a blow to the Red Sox on a day when they took an exhilarating 6-2 10th-inning walkoff win on a Xander Bogaerts grand slam before an electric crowd at Fenway.
“I was just talking to [trainer] Brad [Pearson]. It looks bad,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was referring to the swelling in Rodriguez’s ankle. “He’s walking around, which is encouraging. We have to go through the tests and see what happens.
“Today was probably his best one. Throwing strikes, great tempo, pitching to contact and then that happens. We’ll see. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I felt he was making strides and making great pitches. Hopefully he’ll be OK.”
While X-rays were negative, there was more exploration to be done because of Rodriguez’s history with kneecap issues (although they seemed to be resolved by offseason surgery).
Sprained ankles aren’t good for any player and it’s especially tough for a pitcher since, in E-Rod’s case, that’s his landing leg. Cora insisted that there was nothing wrong with his knee after the incident.
Rodriguez had already left the ballpark before media availability after the game, so he was not around to comment.
The bigger question is do the Red Sox need to be in the market for a starting pitcher?
Rodriguez extended his scoreless string to 19 innings. He has become a significant part of the starting rotation. Are the Sox now destined to have to scout the Tigers’ Michael Fulmer or the Rangers’ Cole Hamels or the Blue Jays’ J.A. Happ when they should be devoting their resources toward a reliever, such as the Orioles’ Zach Britton? It’s a shame for a team to be on such a roll and have to put an 11-game winner on the shelf.
They benefit on the healing side by added days off from the All-Star break, but they have two pitchers — Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright — who can’t seem to make it back. Pomeranz has had all sorts of delivery issues in his three rehab starts, while Wright’s knee remains inflamed and the cartilage restoration rehab is going about as well as Dustin Pedroia’s.
Brian Johnson has also been on the DL with a hip ailment though he’s expected back Sunday. Would the Red Sox go with a staff of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Johnson, and Hector Velazquez for the short term? Would they include Jalen Beeks? This would be a staff that on paper is weaker than the Yankees, who are also looking to add a starting pitcher.
With one out in the sixth inning Saturday, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. grounded to the right side where first baseman Blake Swihart ranged to his right but bobbled the ball. He caught the ball barehanded and threw to Rodriguez, who was running to cover the bag. The throw sailed behind E-Rod, who then had to jump over Gurriel as he was sliding headfirst into the bag. However, Rodriguez caught his left leg on Gurriel’s helmet and landed awkwardly on his right foot.
Rodriguez tried to work it out and got on the mound. But, after one throw to the plate, flexed his leg again, and that’s when the Red Sox training staff and Cora told him to shut it down.
It was an unfortunate development for a 25-year-old guy that was really pitching well (11-3, 3.44 ERA). There are things that still drive you cuckoo about him, like the parade of injuries and throwing too many pitches, which limit the length of his outings.
Economizing is often a problem of young pitchers. Most of them eventually figure it out. Jon Lester used to suffer from this, but he learned to economize to the point where he could pitch beyond seven innings but still throw 100-115 pitches in a game.
Rodriguez had won his last start vs. the Rangers on Monday throwing 5⅔ scoreless innings and allowing just three hits.
So it’s all been good for Rodriguez. The Red Sox have needed it with David Price’s inconsistencies and injuries to Pomeranz and Wright.
Rodriguez, who was acquired from the Orioles four years ago for Andrew Miller, has always had good stuff and mid-90s velocity. The Orioles were always high on Rodriguez, but there were issues and injuries that kept Rodriguez from excelling.
But now there’s a new injury, which couldn’t have happened at the worst possible time. The Red Sox now have a another pitching problem that they’ll likely need to address.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com.