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FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Price is off living a peaceful life with the Dodgers; Chris Sale and Nate Eovaldi are injury risks; and the only starter the Red Sox picked up over the winter, Martin Perez, had a 5.12 earned run average with the Twins last season and was left off the playoff roster.

That leaves Eduardo Rodriguez as the bedrock of the rotation.

So when manager Ron Roenicke opened his pregame news conference on Saturday with the news that Rodriguez was being bumped off his start on Sunday because of a sore left knee, it seemed like trouble.

Rodriguez had a series of issues with his right knee before finally having surgery following the 2017 season. He is 32-11 with 3.81 earned run average since.


This time he caught a spike on the mound while throwing live batting practice last week and fell. So instead of facing the Orioles on Sunday in Sarasota, Rodriguez will pitch on one of the practice fields at Fenway South on Monday.

“This is a minor thing. At least right now it certainly is,” Roenicke said. “He’s still a little uncomfortable with it but it’s better every day.”

Rodriguez eased any concerns by throwing a bullpen session on Saturday then going through some agility drills. He was then quick to say that this was nothing to be concerned about, especially when compared to the issues he once had with his right knee.

“I know how it is when something is really, really bad,” Rodriguez said. “This wasn’t anything close to the right knee . . . I threw a normal bullpen. Everything feels great.”

The plan is for Rodriguez to face hitters for two innings on Monday with a Trackman device monitoring his effort. If that goes well, he would then pitch three innings in a Grapefruit League game.


Eduardo Rodriguez (left) had teammate Xander Bogaerts nearby to lift his spirits on Saturday at JetBlue Park.
Eduardo Rodriguez (left) had teammate Xander Bogaerts nearby to lift his spirits on Saturday at JetBlue Park.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Roenicke stressed several times that the Sox were being cautious, which makes sense given Rodriguez’s importance to the rotation.

“That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,” the manager said.

That Rodriguez was quick to shake off an injury is a good sign, as there was a time in his career when similar incidents turned into lengthy dramas. Both Price and former Sox righthander Rick Porcello counseled him on the need to pitch through minor aches and pains.

Former manager Alex Cora took it a step further in 2018. He was tough on Rodriguez, demanding better performances and not accepting any excuses.

Cora didn’t want the lefthander to settle for being a No. 4 starter and that message took hold. Rodriguez finished sixth in the American League Cy Young Award voting last season.

Now that motivation is going to have to come from within.

“This year, without them, it’s going to be hard not to see them,” Rodriguez said. “But I thank God for the opportunity to spend time with them. They were teaching me and pushing me all the time. Now I have to do it by myself.”

Sale, who missed the first few days of camp recovering from pneumonia, is making quick progress.

Chris Sale hasn’t given up on the idea of being the Red Sox’ Opening Day starter in Toronto on March 26.
Chris Sale hasn’t given up on the idea of being the Red Sox’ Opening Day starter in Toronto on March 26.File/Jim Davis/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

“You have to build back up,” said the lefthander, who has pitched off the mound twice since coming back. “You don’t want to go down to a three and then jump back up to a 10 right out of the gate. I have to hit my steps. . . . Everything feels good and my body is responding.”


Sale is scheduled to throw in the bullpen on Sunday. Then he will meet with Roenicke, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, pitching coach Dave Bush, head athletic trainer Brad Pearson, and probably a few others to map out what comes next.

“He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball and we can’t mess with him,” Roenicke said.

Roenicke is not pushing for Sale to be ready for Opening Day or even the first week of the season. He’ll be ready when he’s ready, especially considering Sale finished last season on the injured list with elbow inflammation.

Sale, though, isn’t giving up on the idea that he’ll have Game 1 in Toronto on March 26.

“I think I can get ready for it,” he said. “That’s not my call to make. I go out there, do my job and tell them how I feel on a daily basis. Obviously as the workload picks up, we’ll see how things pick up. I’ll be open and honest with them and we’ll see how things shake out.”

Eovaldi is lined up to pitch on Monday. Perez is expected to start soon after that.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.