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.”
⚾️ SPRING TRAINING 2019
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.”
⚾️ SPRING TRAINING 2019
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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