BALTIMORE — Before he slipped off the mound and served up gopher balls, Eduardo Rodriguez had done more than his fair share.
The lefty, who said his fall during warm-ups didn’t affect him, has been a worthy pupil of Chris Sale’s in 2017. The Red Sox are fortunate for that.
Now, it’s time for the arms that were supposed to do the heavy lifting to step up. Rodriguez allowed four home runs on Thursday night in a 7-5 loss to the Orioles, shifting the spotlight — even some pressure — to the real debut of a ballyhooed Red Sox rotation.
For the first time, Rick Porcello, David Price and Chris Sale are to pitch together inside the same series, finishing off a four-game series with the Orioles.
The trio of aces, here at last! At least, that’s what people liked to envision in the winter. It’s hard to call all three of them aces today.
Before David Price was hurt, most questions centered on Porcello, with a few scatter year-one worries for Sale.
It wasn’t fair for that Porcello, a defending Cy Young winner, was doubted so, and yet it absolutely was. Because his 2016 season was a departure from his career norms, and he’s a pitcher who relies on contact more than most year-in, year-out dominant starters.
Porcello’s been off lately, and this is as big a test as any following his magical run a year ago.
Price is said to be healthy. His command was off in his first start back from the left elbow injury that took away roughly two months of the season. That was expected.
But the grace period’s going to disappear very quickly. Price expects the world of himself. The fans do too, and if he’s in the rotation, Saturday’s start can’t be looked at as extended spring training.
The expected best is saved for last, on Sunday.
Sale’s coming off his worst outing since joining the Red Sox, and how he rebounds in a crucial series finale will swing the narrative one way or another. People will start to grumble that he’s not as great as he’s been billed to be with two consecutive bad outings for the first time since joining the Sox.
A return to dominance, and Sale will remain an idealized version of an ace who stuck it to the Orioles when the Sox needed him most.
The Sox rotation was supposed to center on three arms. They’re all together now, and the floor is theirs.