Red Sox

Eduardo Rodriguez hype is real, but one specific area of the southpaw's game needs improvement

Eduardo Rodriguez hype is real, but one specific area of the southpaw's game needs improvement

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Oftentimes, hype doesn’t translate into results. But there’s plenty of reason to believe the preseason hype surrounding Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez will.

Rodriguez has been the star of camp so far this spring. The hard-throwing southpaw has been working with ace Chris Sale on his slider, and it’s turned his live batting practice sessions into must-watch events.

"Eddie looks great, man,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said on Tuesday. "Eddie's working a slider now. He understands who he is a little more. The work he put in the offseason is paying off -- repeating his delivery. You ask any of those guys, and everybody was watching -- I think he's kind of like the favorite pitcher of the whole camp. When he throws live BPs everybody is out there watching.”

Cora also said at the beginning of camp that Rodriguez is “in the best shape of his life.” You hear that a lot about a number of players this time of year, but when you see E-Rod up close and personal, you’ll know it isn’t all talk.

Also raving about the 25-year-old is Red Sox great Pedro Martinez, who called Rodriguez’s live BP on Tuesday “one of the most impressive” he’s seen, and “beautiful to watch.”

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The question with Rodriguez — once Boston’s top pitching prospect after being acquired from Baltimore — isn’t whether he has the “stuff” to be a frontline starter. His mid-90s fastball along with a changeup that bewilders left-handed batters speaks for itself. Combine those with a slider that looks to be improving this spring, and Rodriguez could be on track to set career highs in a handful of categories just as he did last season.

Where the problem lies for Rodriguez is his inability to consistently pitch deep into games. In 2018, he pitched six innings or more in only eight of his 23 starts. Not once did he pitch through the seventh. An ankle injury suffered in July likely played a factor during the second half of the season, but early exits have been an issue throughout the Venezuelan’s young career.

In fact, both Cora and Rodriguez acknowledged the lefty's struggles with early exits last June.

“I feel there’s more there,” Cora said after Rodriguez pitched 5 2/3 innings versus Baltimore. “There’s certain games we need our starters to go deeper, and today was one of them. He gave us what he gave, but I think the next step is for him to get through six, seven innings. And he can do that.”

“That’s not a really good feeling for a starting pitcher,” Rodriguez said after the start. “You just need to keep working. It’s going to come one day, but I’ve just got to keep working to try to get deep into games.”

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There’s still plenty of untapped potential with Rodriguez. If what we’ve seen this spring is any indication of what’s to come, Red Sox fans are in for a treat. 

But as impressive he’s been during live BP, and as nasty as his reinvented slider has looked, Rodriguez needs to show it can not only be carried over to the regular season, but that it can be done for six or seven innings consistently.

If he can do that, look out. The hype exists for a reason.

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Yankees officially clinch AL East title, end Red Sox' three-year streak

Yankees officially clinch AL East title, end Red Sox' three-year streak

The Yankees have had the American League East crown in the bag for a while now, but they officially got the job done on Thursday.

With a 9-1 victory over the Angels, the Yanks clinched the division to end the Red Sox' three-year streak of AL East titles. It's the Bronx Bombers' first time finishing atop the division since 2012.

The win also marked the Yankees' 100th of the season, making them the second team to reach that mark this year behind the Astros.

As New York looks ahead to the playoffs, the defending champion Red Sox find themselves on the brink of elimination with two weeks remaining in the season.

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Eduardo Rodriguez quest for 20 wins might be only reason left to watch Red Sox

Eduardo Rodriguez quest for 20 wins might be only reason left to watch Red Sox

BOSTON -- The quest for 20 continues.

The Red Sox have nothing left to play for except pride and individual achievements, and they've crossed a few off the list recently with 50 doubles each for Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, 30 homers for Devers, and 130 runs for Mookie Betts.

The biggest item on the to-do list, however, might be getting left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to 20 wins, a plateau last reached by a Red Sox starter during Rick Porcello's Cy Young-winning 2016 season, when he went 22-4.

E-Rod improved to 18-6 on Thursday with six innings of one-run ball in a 5-4 win over the Giants, and the run was unearned. The victory didn't come without some palpitations, however, as the visitors loaded the bases with nobody out in the ninth and the Red Sox leading 5-3.

Closer Brandon Workman escaped the mess largely of his own making by walking in one but eventually striking out the side to keep Rodriguez on track for what would be one of the more improbable 20-win seasons in team annals.

"He's had a hell of a season," Workman said. "He's thrown the ball really well. I think he's knocking on the door of 200 innings as well. So if he can be 20 wins, 200 innings, that's benchmarks in two different areas for starters. So that would be incredible."

It hasn't been a fluke, especially not recently. Rodriguez struggled early in the season to command his fastball up in the zone, but once he recognized the damage he could do above the letters at 95 mph, especially when paired with a vicious changeup below the knees, he took off.

He struck out 10 on Thursday and walked only two, lowering his ERA to 3.53, which is good for seventh in the American League. He has two starts remaining to win two games and throw the final 8.2 innings he needs to reach 200 for the first time.

"He's been outstanding," said manager Alex Cora. "What else can we say? It's been going on for a while. Now you see the strikeouts way up there and the walks staying low. He's put in a great season."

Rodriguez is slated to start Tuesday in Texas and then at home against Baltimore in the season finale a week from Sunday. If he wins the first start, he'll be given every opportunity to claim the second, which would come against the team that signed him as an amateur free agent in 2010 before trading him to the Red Sox for reliever Andrew Miller in 2010.

Rodriguez is also virtually guaranteed to surpass the 200-strikeout threshold for the first time, because he sits at 199.

"I mean, I have two more starts and just go out there and try to do the best I can and give us a chance to win those games," Rodriguez said. "Just go out there and perform and try to be good again. At the beginning of the season, I was really thinking, go 200 innings. That was all my goal this year, go 200 innings, 30-plus starts and I made the 30-plus already so now I'm looking for the 200 innings. 200 strikeouts, that's something you can't control. You go out there and execute the pitches and if they swing and miss, they strike out, so if it happens, it happens."

Rodriguez returned to that phrase when it comes to 20 wins, but Cora said the rest of the team is intent on helping him get there.

"Twenty wins is something the guys are pushing for me right now and if it happens, it happens," Rodriguez said. "You know how baseball is. You can have a game of one run or no runs and still get a no-decision. It all depends on how the games are going to go."

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