Red Sox

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

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

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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Red Sox' Jhonny Pereda among players worried about salary during pandemic

Red Sox' Jhonny Pereda among players worried about salary during pandemic

The Boston Red Sox traded for Chicago Cubs catcher Jhonny Pereda last week in a surprising move for a minor league catcher who was awaiting clarity on his salary amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Pereda, a 23-year-old from Venezuela, relies on his minor league salary to help take care of his family back home and, like many, he's worried about getting paid.

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"I was just hoping and looking forward to the beginning of the season and to start making money," Pereda told ESPN's Joon Lee, through a translator. "I have to give support to my family. When I found out that the season was over, my first thought was, 'What am I going to do?'"

Minor league players don't get paid nearly as much as players in the majors, and Pereda noted that many Latin American athletes come to the United States to be able to provide for their families. 

"Coming from a third-world country where everything is very hard and tough, with the entire situation, I just wish that MLB and other people can help the minor leaguers [more] than they are doing right now because we need that money to live and provide for our families," Pereda said. "I think I can speak for all the Latin-American players, coming from there to the States, when we arrive to this country, it is because we are going to work and we are trying to make money to provide for our families.

"Of course, being in the big leagues, you have all of the attention of the fans and people sometimes don't realize how hard the struggle we have to go through. Only the players know how hard it is to get there because being in the business, you have to go to the minors first."

While Pereda and the minor leaguers are worried about what the future holds, MLB announced Tuesday they would be assisting minor league players throughout the pandemic. Each player will receive $400 per week with medical benefits, according to Ken Rosenthal.

While $400 per week isn't much to buy groceries, pay bills and help out their families, it's a start. In fact, some lower minor league players don't make that much money while veterans in the minors will see a pay reduction. 

For all pro athletes and their fans, and more importantly, everyone's overall health, we can only hope the crisis subsides and sports return as soon as possible. 

 

 

Hindsight 2020: Remember when the Red Sox chose the wrong All-Star to build around?

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AP photos

Hindsight 2020: Remember when the Red Sox chose the wrong All-Star to build around?

The Red Sox have made plenty of shrewd acquisitions over the last 20 years, from signing David Ortiz to trading for Curt Schilling to drafting Mookie Betts, with four World Series trophies as a result.

But given their volume of high-profile deals, it's inevitable that some will miss.

And so to kick off our Hindsight 2020 series from a front office perspective, we're going to break down one Red Sox move that would best be undone.

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From an historical perspective, convincing Harry Frazee not to send Babe Ruth to the Yankees would probably be a good place to start, but that's too obvious. If we fast-forward to Christmas of 1980, then we'd encourage Haywood Sullivan to show a little more urgency finding a post office with free agency beckoning for Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn. That's another easy one.

Bad free agent decisions usually stem from organizational breakdowns, which is why Ben Cherington's decision to sign Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval in the 2014 offseason isn't the choice, nor is Theo Epstein's acquisition of Carl Crawford or Matt Clement. Those were moves born of necessity after other player development and/or payroll mishaps.

No, today, we're going to consider an overlooked decision that nevertheless cost the franchise a Hall of Famer. Money wasn't the issue, nor was desperation. This came down to straight talent evaluation between a pair of All-Stars, and the Red Sox chose wrong.

So let's revisit the case of Adrian Beltre and the circumstances that led him to leave Boston after a one-and-done season that could've been so much more.

A 48-home run hitter and MVP runner-up with the Dodgers in 2004, Beltre signed a five-year, $64 million contract with the Mariners that left him spending his prime in exile, lost to the cavernous dimensions of Safeco Field.

He failed to make an All-Star team or top 26 homers in the Pacific Northwest, though he did win a pair of Gold Gloves. When he hit free agency before the 2010 season, agent Scott Boras sought a "pillow contract" that would allow Beltre to re-establish his value before returning to free agency a year later.

The Red Sox provided it with a one-year, $10 million offer. Beltre rewarded them, and then some, hitting .321, leading the league in doubles, making his first All-Star team, and winning a Silver Slugger. The Red Sox missed the playoffs anyway because of lousy pitching beyond 19-game winner Jon Lester and All-Star Clay Buchholz.

It wasn't Beltre's fault. He delivered not just on the field, but in the clubhouse, where his combination of professionalism, intensity, and self-deprecation made him widely respected, a reputation that would only grow in ensuing seasons. (There's a reason, a decade later, that Mitch Moreland believed Beltre would be just the man to mentor Rafael Devers through early-career struggles.)

Beltre's contract was structured to guarantee he'd spend only one year in Boston, with a $5 million player option both sides knew he'd decline.

Boston faced decisions that offseason. Both Beltre and All-Star catcher Victor Martinez were free agents, and Epstein had his sights on the long-time object of his affection: All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

At that point in their respective careers, few would've argued the 30-year-old Beltre represented a better bet than the 27-year-old Gonzalez, a former No. 1 overall pick who had already won a pair of Gold Gloves while blasting 40 homers in San Diego, no hitter's paradise.

With homegrown All-Star Kevin Youkilis one year into a $41 million extension and capable of playing either corner, Epstein had a decision to make: Beltre at third or Gonzalez at first.

He didn't have to think long or hard. He had openly lusted after Gonzalez for years, and on Dec. 6, swung a deal with former protégé Jed Hoyer, sending a package of three prospects, including future All-Star Anthony Rizzo, to San Diego.

Beltre was attending David Ortiz's charity golf tournament in the Dominican and didn't know the deal had been consummated until a couple of Boston reporters relayed the news. He grimaced, but his sadness proved short-lived. Within a month, the Rangers delivered a five-year, $80 million offer that might be the best free agent contract of the decade.

Over the next eight years, Beltre transformed himself into a Hall of Famer, making three All-Star teams, winning three Gold Gloves, and finishing in the top 10 of MVP voting for five straight years. He recorded his 3,000th hit in a Rangers uniform, and was a driving force behind four playoff berths, including a heartbreaking World Series loss to the Cardinals in 2011.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez immediately signed a $154 million extension and posted monster numbers, but nonetheless came to represent the unlikable, entitled and whiny 2011 team that collapsed down the stretch. A year later, Cherington blew up the roster by shipping Gonzalez, Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers.

It's easy to wonder what might've been. Youkilis shifted to third from first base, where he had won a Gold Glove, and made an All-Star team, but injuries had already started taking their toll. A year later, he'd be traded after clashing with manager Bobby Valentine.

The 2011 collapse made Valentine's disastrous tenure possible, because it forced out both Epstein and manager Terry Francona. Could Beltre, one of the game's most respected leaders, had made a difference that September? Outside of Jacoby Ellsbury, the Red Sox wilted and desperately needed a steadying influence. At the very least, Beltre probably wouldn't have complained about inconvenient Sunday night travel while the season was going down the toilet.

If there's a saving grace, it's that Epstein and the front office recognized the deep 2011 draft as their final opportunity to spend with impunity before baseball imposed limits in the new CBA. They used the two compensatory picks they received for Beltre to take Blake Swihart and Jackie Bradley Jr. as part of a haul that also yielded Matt Barnes, Mookie Betts, and Travis Shaw.

Bradley helped the team win a World Series in 2018, and he also earned a ring in 2013.

Gonzalez posted solid but unspectacular numbers in L.A. before hitting .237 in 54 games with the 2018 Mets. He hasn't played since, meaning his career is likely over at age 37.

Beltre also played his final game in 2018, but he departed to significantly more fanfare, retiring with 3,166 hits, 477 homers, 93.6 WAR ... and one giant what-might-have-been in Boston.