One of the more significant developments for the Red Sox on Sunday happened 4½ hours before they played the Yankees.
Eduardo Rodriguez, who has been on the disabled list since badly spraining his right ankle on July 14, threw 30 pitches off the main mound at Fenway Park.
“That was impressive, honestly,” manager Alex Cora said. “That was good to see.”
With Dan Butler catching and Rafael Devers standing in but not swinging, Rodriguez threw his full assortment of pitches with Cora, pitching coach Dana LeVangie and other team officials watching closely.
“I thought he looked great,” Butler said. “He was sharp.”
Rodriguez appeared to have a long-term injury when he took an awkward tumble covering first base against the Blue Jays. But the lefthander was soon playing catch and that progressed to throwing off the mound for the first time on Sunday.
“I want to keep going; I want to keep doing it. My ankle is really good,” Rodriguez said. “It feels great, feels fine throwing off the mound. That was a test today, on a main diamond and everything. It was really good.”
Rodriguez said playing catch kept his arm strong and when he got on the mound his pitches felt normal.
“It felt great,” he said. “I asked Raffy how he saw it and he said it was good.”
After Rodriguez finished pitching, he jogged in the outfield and went through a few fielding drills.
Rodriguez said how well the Sox have played is a source of motivation.
“I just want to get back and contribute, too,” he said. “The team is playing pretty good and I want to be part of that.”
That Rodriguez pitched with only tape on his ankles and not a brace was another sign of his progress. He is no longer using a walking boot or air cast.
Rodriguez had a reputation for being ultra-cautious with injuries in past years. But he has had a different approach since spring training and was ahead of schedule returning from knee surgery.
That he was on the mound throwing only three weeks after what the Sox feared was a season-ending injury was another example.
“That was good news right there,” Cora said.
Rodriguez is 11-3 with a 3.44 earned run average in 19 starts. Given his recent progress, he should have time to return as a starter. That would be a boost to what is already a strong rotation.
“That’s what I want, to be available to them as a starter,” he said. “But if they put me in the bullpen, or wherever they put me, I’m going to go out there and pitch.”
His next step has not been scheduled, although Rodriguez did not rule out the idea of being able to return before the end of the month.
“We’ve got to see what the plan is going to be,” he said. “We’ve got to sit together.”
Typically, the Sox would want to see a pitcher build up via a simulated game and then a minor league rehabilitation assignment before returning to the majors.
That process would be quicker if Rodriguez is used a reliever.