Spring 2015 officially began on March 20, and since then there hasn’t been too much to cheer for in Boston sports. In fact, in a most depressing turn, the highlight of the spring was probably the Celtics getting swept in the playoffs — because at least they made the playoffs. Other than that, this season has featured an overdose on Deflategate, the Bruins bland GM search and the Red Sox testing the limits of society’s patience for baseball.
To this point, it’s not so much that the Sox have played poorly — even though they have — it’s that they’ve done so in the most frustratingly unspectacular fashion. They have the American League’s second-worst run differential; they rank 11th in the AL in runs scored; they’re one of only four teams in the majors with an ERA above 4.40. This is a team that was supposed to be fueled by depth and consistency in the starting rotation and a hard-hitting, fever-inducing line-up. Instead, they might as well be sponsored by Ambien. David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval look old and/or injured and/or slow. Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts show flashes, but still haven’t broken through. Dustin Pedroia has been great, and Mike Napoli is on a tear, but in general, these have been your Blahston Red Sox. Nothing to see here. Feel free to plan your summer around not having to be in front of the TV.
Or, if the Sox send Eduardo Rodriguez back to Pawtucket this afternoon, feel free to throw that TV right out the window. And incite a coup on Yawkey Way. And hop on a flight to Arlington, Texas, march straight into the visiting clubhouse and smack John Farrell across the face with a white glove. That’s because Eduardo Rodriguez is the hero that Boston needs and deserves right now, and we can’t let anything stand in the way.
And OK, maybe that’s an overreaction, but if you watched Rodriguez last night in Texas, you woke up this morning feeling something that you haven’t felt in a long time with these Red Sox. Hope. Inspiration. In the first start of his major league career, the 22-year-old Rodriguez delivered the best start of Boston’s season. Over 7 2/3 scoreless innings, he worked confidently, and even better, he worked quickly. He had the Rangers’ high-powered offense seeing stars. Of course, it was just one start, but for a kid who came into the night already having been compared to Johan Santana and a harder-throwing Andy Pettite, Rodriguez’s debut was everything that the Sox could have hoped for, and everything that they need. It was a vey real injection of optimism and excitement for a team and a fan base that’s teetering on life support. It was a reason to look ahead in the schedule, count out five games, and think: “OK, so next Tuesday at Fenway would be Rodriguez’s next start — better make sure I’m around to watch.”
When’s the last time any Red Sox pitcher made you feel that way?
From the beginning, the plan was for last night to only be a spot start for Eduardo Rodriguez — a quick cup of coffee to spell the rotation before heading back to Pawtucket to prep himself for his real chance. But come on. The plans have changed. They have to. They need to. Rodriguez might not be the best starting pitcher in the Sox rotation, but he at least deserves the opportunity to prove that. The fans deserve the opportunity to watch that.
In the end, Rodriguez might not save the Red Sox season, but he just might save this horrible spring.