Red Sox

Red Sox LHP Eduardo Rodriguez is finally figuring it out, and 20 wins are within reach

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Red Sox LHP Eduardo Rodriguez is finally figuring it out, and 20 wins are within reach

BOSTON -- Three more wins and Eduardo Rodriguez finishes the season with . . . 20?!?

The Red Sox couldn't have asked for a better best-case-scenario out of their fifth starter. They've long pushed him to maintain his consistency from start to start and to pitch deeper into games. In 2019, at age 26, he is finally figuring it all out, which means a legitimate milestone is within reach.

On Wednesday, E-Rod shut out the thundering Twins offense for seven innings in a 6-2 victory that gives him 17 wins on the season. Reaching the 20 threshold won't be easy. If he stays on his regular turn, he'll make four starts the rest of the way: at home vs. the Yankees this weekend, at Philadelphia, at Tampa, and at Texas.

"For me, it's not important for right now to win 20 games," Rodriguez said. "For me, it's more important to give the team a chance to make the postseason. That's our goal as a team. Make it to the postseason. If 20 wins come or not, I'm just going to be happy if we make it to the playoffs."

With that goal entirely out of the team's hands — the only contender left the Red Sox play is Tampa — Rodriguez may have to settle for individual glory, but at least he is earning it.

He leads the American League in starts (29) and he has an outside shot of reaching 200 innings and 200 strikeouts, each for the first time in his career, if he can average seven innings and eight K's over his final four appearances.

He's 17-5 with a career-best 3.81 ERA, and he has really come on of late, with an 11-1 record in his last 16 starts. He has thrown at least seven shutout innings in three of his last four turns.

In a season that has seen starters Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Nathan Eovaldi limited by either injury, ineffectiveness, or both, Rodriguez has been the one bright spot in an otherwise dismal rotation.

"Like I've been saying all along, he didn't have to be David or Chris or Rick or Nate," said manager Alex Cora. "Eduardo Rodriguez is a good pitcher and he has good stuff and we saw that last year."

If Rodriguez can win 20, he'll join a select group in recent Red Sox history. Since 1978, when a young Dennis Eckersley turned the trick, only six other starters have reached the milestone: Porcello, Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez (twice), and Roger Clemens (three times). Porcello is the only pitcher on that list never to make an All-Star team, but he won the Cy Young award in 2016.

That suggests even better things lay ahead for E-Rod, who doesn't even turn 27 until April.

"Potential is great," Cora said. "We know that. It's like, that's great, but there are a lot of people that just stay with that and they don't take the next step and he took the challenge, made some adjustments and now he's doing what he's doing."

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Lou Merloni destroys MLB, players for bickering over 2020 return plan

Lou Merloni destroys MLB, players for bickering over 2020 return plan

As the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLS prepare to resume play in the near future, Major League Baseball still can't get out of its own way.

MLB reportedly rejected the Players Association's proposal Wednesday for a 114-game season in 2020 and apparently doesn't plan to make a counter-offer.

The league and the players have refused to budge on the issues dividing them: Players don't want to take an additional pay cut after agreeing to prorated salaries in March, while the owners are wary of extending the season too long due to the coronavirus pandemic and want players to agree to further reduced salaries to mitigate lost revenue.

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That stalemate has cost MLB valuable time, however, as the league doesn't appear close to beginning its 2020 regular season as the calendar turns to June.

So, who's to blame here? Lou Merloni believes it's everyone involved.

The former Boston Red Sox infielder ripped into both the league and the union Wednesday night during an appearance on NBC Sports Boston.

"Both sides suck, OK? That's the bottom line," Merloni said. "The Players Association comes back and says, 'Not 82 (games), we want 114' when they know that's the non-starter. The owners don't want to sit there and play until November. They're worried about the pandemic; they've got to get the playoffs in. And then the owners come back and say we're not even going to counter?

"Jesus, we're like a month into this thing. Can you string this thing out (any longer)? How about go in one room together and try to figure this out in a day or two?"

Compounding MLB's issue is that the NBA is expected to announce a return-to-play plan Thursday that would resume the 2019-20 season in late July. The MLS and NHL also have made headwinds toward resuming their seasons this summer -- which means baseball is wasting a much-needed opportunity to showcase itself as the only active pro sports league.

"I mean, you're running out of time and you're only screwing yourself. Even if baseball does come back, people have already said, 'I've had enough of you.' It's been like a month, a year, and you guys talk and bitch about this thing publicly. I don't give a crap anymore. I've got hockey, basketball, football is around the corner, hell, soccer is around the corner. I'm good.

"They don't even realize it! It's like they're in this bubble and they don't even realize what's going on around them right now. Figure this thing out: 70 games, 65, prorated (salaries), start playing some baseball, because your ass better be first coming back. If not, people are going to be done."

There's reportedly some optimism that the players and the union will resolve their differences and put a return plan in place. But with nearly one-third of the season already lost, the clock is ticking.

Check out Merloni's full comments in the video player above.

Who are the best designated hitters in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

Who are the best designated hitters in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

There's only one choice for best designated hitter in Red Sox history, but just in case there's any doubt, we'll quote broadcaster Dave O'Brien with the signature call from his WEEI days: "DAVID ORTIZ! DAVID ORTIZ! DAVID ORTIZ!"

No sense in even pretending there's any suspense on this one.

What's fascinating about ranking the Red Sox DHs, however, is just how few of them have actually held down the position for any length of time over the years.

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Only nine players have made at least 200 appearances there with the Red Sox since the DH was introduced in 1973, and four of them — Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, and Manny Ramirez — have already appeared elsewhere in our outfield rankings.

That leaves five men to fill out the list, and about the only difficult omission is slugger Jose Canseco, who made 184 appearances between 1995 and 1996.

Click here for the Top 5 DHs in Red Sox history.