Red Sox

Red Sox's historically thin rotation exposed with Eduardo Rodriguez illness

Red Sox's historically thin rotation exposed with Eduardo Rodriguez illness

Here's all you need to know about the state of the Red Sox pitching staff: MLB.com's official depth chart lists Chris Sale as a starter, even though he's out for the season following Tommy John surgery.

Then again, maybe it's not a mistake, because a right-handed Sale might contend for a spot at the back of this rotation — if not the front of it.

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Tuesday's news that left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez has indeed been diagnosed with COVID-19, delaying his arrival in Boston while he fights symptoms at his home in Miami, means the Red Sox will almost certainly open the season without their 19-game winner.

Opening night responsibilities will instead fall to oft-injured right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, a 2018 postseason hero coming off elbow surgery that limited him to just 67.2 innings last year. He'll probably be followed by left-hander Martin Perez and right-hander Ryan Weber, two hurlers whom, in a perfect world, would be Triple-A depth options.

"In conversations with (Rodriguez), he wants to be ready for that Opening Day, but we'll have to see how it goes," manager Ron Roenicke said. "The medical team will follow him, will give him instructions basically on how to stay in shape. It just depends on how long this thing goes, when we can get the negative test from him and when he can come up and join us."

Time is not on Rodriguez's side. The season opens on July 24 at Fenway Park against the Orioles, and Rodriguez can't return until he's fever-free for at least 72 hours and test negative twice at least 24 hours apart.

Given the often lengthy recovery time associated with this coronavirus — "He's feeling a lot better, but he's still not 100 percent," Roenicke said — it's possible Rodriguez won't rejoin his teammates in Boston for a week or more.

Given his importance to the team's long-term future and the state of the rest of the rotation, there's little incentive to then rush him back for the start of a 60-game season, which means the team's playoff odds, which weren't particularly high to begin with, just took their first big hit.

"The medical end of it certainly comes first," Roenicke said. "It's just like an injury, that comes first and make sure that guys are healthy and they feel good enough to get back on the field. Eddie, coming off the year he had last year and I know how hard he worked before he came to the first spring training. I know how hard he was working before he got COVID, so that's the difficult part is when you see a guy that's on a mission to not only repeat, but try to get better than what he did last year, it becomes difficult and you feel for the guy because I know the expectations he had this year coming into it. I know things have changed because of the shortened season, but I know he was still looking forward to really leading this team on the mound and having that kind of year again."

Rodriguez went 19-6 and finished sixth in the AL Cy Young Award voting. His absence leaves the rotation in a shambles.

Perez is coming off a 5.12 ERA in 29 starts with the Twins, and after a promising start, he didn't exactly finish strong, going 3-6 with a 6.29 ERA over his final 21 starts. He's here on a one-year, $6.25 million deal because the Red Sox believe there's potential in his cutter, but also because he's about all they could afford.

"First half was really good for me and I know the second half was up and down, up and down, but that's part of the game," Perez said via Zoom on Tuesday. "I just want to take all the positive things and put everything together again and help the team to win. I have a good feeling, I feel great, I'm happy to be here and be part of this organization. When you feel good and happy, you can do whatever you want. I trust my stuff, I believe my stuff and this organization believes in me and I have the feeling that this is going to be a good year for me."

Weber is a nice story. Drafted 11 years ago by the Braves, the crafty 29-year-old is coming off career-highs in appearances (18) and innings (40.2). He's a favorite of Roenicke with his swerving throwback arsenal that barely breaks 90 mph and is consistently in and around the strike zone.

"Ryan is so consistent, so pinpoint," said outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. after facing Weber in a live BP on Monday. "Inside, outside, cutting it, two-seaming it, sliding it, curving it, he's looking good right now. I'm glad he's on our side."

That's very kind, but let's suffer no illusions over who and what Weber is. He's a depth piece and swingman, not a third starter.

That said, he beats what comes next. It would be nice to say that right-hander Collin McHugh is recovered from the flexor strain that cost him the final month of last season — he's only two years removed from posting a 1.99 ERA in 58 relief appearances with the Astros, after all — but neither the pitcher nor team can say if he'll be ready for Opening Day.

Assuming that's too aggressive, then say hello to a first turn through the rotation of Eovaldi, Perez, Weber, opener, opener.

Ugh. Good luck taking that into battle when the schedule includes 29 games against the Yankees, Rays, Nationals, and Braves.

Hurry back, E-Rod, and find Sale a right-handed glove and bring him with you.

Red Sox' Alex Verdugo robs home run, celebrates with awesome reaction

Red Sox' Alex Verdugo robs home run, celebrates with awesome reaction

Alex Verdugo made best play of his young Boston Red Sox career Friday night, and he was well aware of it.

With the Red Sox leading the Blue Jays by two runs in the ninth inning, Verdugo leaped in front of the right field bullpen at Fenway Park to rob Toronto's Travis Shaw of a home run.

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The play was impressive in its own right, but the 24-year-old outfielder punctuated it with a great reaction.

Verdugo's scream of celebration was audible on the game broadcast (even above the fake crowd noise), a sign of just how fired up he was about the catch.

"I would say I’ve never screamed like that before,” Verdugo said after Boston's 5-3 win, via the Associated Press. “I used to be a pitcher back in the day. I was pretty hyped up."

Verdugo had two other reasons to be hyped up: He also blasted a pair of solo home runs, giving him three on the young season and earning a spot alongside legendary left-handed slugger Mo Vaughn.

The Red Sox aren't expected to make much noise this season, but it appears the former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder will do his best to raise the decibel level.

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Highlights: Alex Verdugo homers twice in Boston's second straight win

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Highlights: Alex Verdugo homers twice in Boston's second straight win

FINAL SCORE: Boston Red Sox 5, Toronto Blue Jays 3

IN BRIEF: Alex Verdugo homered twice and Mitch Moreland added one of his own in the Red Sox' win over the Blue Jays on Friday night. The Red Sox capitalized on a woeful outing from Blue Jays starter Tanner Roark, who walked five batters and allowed four runs in three innings pitched.

Sox starter Ryan Weber allowed two runs in three innings, then the bullpen put together an admirable effort to preserve the lead.

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BOX SCORE

RED SOX RECORD: 5-8

HIGHLIGHTS

Well, that escalated quickly

Verdugo's first Fenway homer

Moreland's two-run shot

Vlad Jr. brings Jays within one

Homer No. 2 for Verdugo...

...and then he robs one!

UP NEXT
vs. Blue Jays, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., NESN
vs. Blue Jays, Sunday, 1:35 p.m., NESN