Cora challenges E-Rod on pitch efficiency

Rodriguez tosses two scoreless innings, but finishes outing in bullpen

March 4th, 2019

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – The box score shows that threw two scoreless innings during his second outing of Spring Training in Monday’s 9-3 win against the Mets.

But Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s eyes told him a different story. Cora saw a return to an old habit of Rodriguez in that he wasn’t as pitch efficient as the team needs him to be.

“There were two at-bats there that we didn’t like,” said Cora. “The one against [Amed] Rosario and the Dominic Smith one. There were two outs and Rosario, he got ahead right away and then it became a long at-bat. Smith, with two outs, lefty, he falls behind in a 3-0 count.

“For him to go deeper into games, he needs to attack guys. The stuff was good and he got some swings and misses but those are the things that we need to get better and he knows that.”

After Rodriguez threw 41 pitches over those two innings, the Red Sox had him do a little more work in the bullpen. Rodriguez was displeased that he wasn’t efficient enough to get a third inning in the game.

“That’s supposed to be 50 pitches [in the game] and I finished in the bullpen. I just feel a little bit mad,” Rodriguez said. “It was something where I wanted to throw the 50 in the game and not on the bullpen mound, but it was good.”

The good news is that Rodriguez is healthy in Spring Training for the first time since 2015, and he should start the season in the rotation instead of the disabled list.

But Cora is challenging Rodriguez to take it to the next level as he enters his fifth season in the Majors.

“The offseason, everything is on plan. But obviously we need that next step, because 5 1/3 [innings] is tough,” said Cora. “We want him to go deeper into games. With his stuff, he can do that whenever he feels like it. It’s part of the learning process. He’s old enough. He’s been in the league for a long time. It’s time for him to step up.”

By sending Rodriguez to the bullpen to finish getting to his pitch count, perhaps Cora was sending the 25-year-old a message.

“At that point, I’m not going to send him out there and face two hitters. Finish in the bullpen. He needs to get better at that,” Cora said. “The stuff was really good. We saw it. He threw a slider, actually, to [Michael] Conforto and struck him out swing and miss. Good changeups. But we have to be more efficient.”

Another positive sign from Rodriguez is that he displayed some mobility by making a nice play on an infield tapper on the first-base side of the bag by Tim Tebow and got the out at first. In the past, Rodriguez has been hesitant to make plays like that due to leg issues.

“I try to be athletic sometimes,” quipped Rodriguez. “You know how pitchers are. Then you know now I’m 100 percent and can make those plays I guess. It was a really good test that it happened right now and I was able to make the out.”

Start me up

Thus far, Rodriguez is the only member of Boston’s starting rotation who has pitched in a game. That is by design, as the Sox are going easy with their front four due to workload from last October.

, , and will at last start their game progression at the beginning of next week. Cora hasn’t announced yet which order they will pitch in, but the first of the starts will come in a Minor League game on the team’s off-day on March 11.

Putnam shut down

Right-hander , one of Boston’s many relievers vying for a roster spot, has been dealt a setback. Last week, Putnam strained his right hamstring in a drill and will be shut down for at least a few days.

Putnam had developed into a strong setup man for the White Sox before undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2017. The Red Sox hope he can emerge into a weapon once he gets his hamstring healthy.

“Actually it's one of those that it's a bummer for him obviously because we have to shut him down for a little bit,” said Cora. “He's just playing catch. But we have found other stuff that is actually going to make him better. It's not just the hammy, his back is a little tight, we're working on all that. Hopefully when he comes back it's actually better for him.”

Legendary Orr checks in on Sox

You never know who you might bump into in Spring Training. Prior to Monday’s game against the Mets, hockey great and Boston sports legend Bobby Orr roamed the field during batting practice. Orr huddled with Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and special assistant Tony La Russa outside the cage. During the game, Orr stopped into the clubhouse.

Up next

The Red Sox travel to West Palm Beach on Tuesday to face the Nationals. , , and will be in the starting lineup. Righty , one of the bubble candidates for a roster spot, will start. Righty prospect Travis Lakins will see action out of the bullpen. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.