BOSTON -- It didn't take long for Eduardo Rodriguez's rust to show Monday night. But once he shook it off, he resembled the E-Rod of old, which bodes well for the Red Sox.The lefty, making his first Major League start since June 1 due to a right knee subluxation, had
BOSTON -- It didn't take long for Eduardo Rodriguez's rust to show Monday night. But once he shook it off, he resembled the E-Rod of old, which bodes well for the Red Sox.
The lefty, making his first Major League start since June 1 due to a right knee subluxation, had his return spoiled by giving up three runs in the first two innings of the Red Sox's 4-3 loss to the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.
Kendrys Morales was the first to rudely greet Rodriguez, as Toronto's designated hitter sent a two-run double high off the Green Monster to get the night started.
After expending 26 pitches in the first, Rodriguez came out for the second hoping to regain control; he got the exact opposite. Steve Pearce led off with a crackling shot that skyrocketed toward the Monster, only this time it cleared the barricade for a 3-0 Toronto advantage.
"It was the fastball command in the first two innings," Rodriguez said. "That was the problem. The pitch I missed to Morales was supposed to be a fastball up and the one to Pearce was supposed to be a backdoor cutter."
After three innings, Rodriguez's pitch count was up to 70 and he needed a breather to get his mind straight. At the conclusion of the third, he walked through the dugout and right into the tunnel for a moment, and was joined by pitching coach Carl Willis.
"I just go down there most of the time," Rodriguez said. "It's not too different, I just go down to be alone there and think a little bit."
While a quick break to recollect himself is not rare, this one seemed to have a positive effect.
Rodriguez was able to keep the Jays off the scoreboard for the rest of his start, but the pitch count led to his removal in the sixth. He finished with 111 pitches in 5 1/3 innings.
After the game, the left-hander pinpointed the control of his fastball as the prime reason for his early struggles and the adjustment as the reason for his rebound.
"When I get the fastball command, I can throw as hard as I can and that's easy to do," Rodriguez said. "When you throw the fastball right where you want it, you can throw it as hard as you can, but when you can't, you force it. You've got to go back and pound the strike zone and then you'll be able to get your velocity back."
Rodriguez assured that he is fully healthy after his rehab stint.
Red Sox manager John Farrell recognized that the club is going to have to deal with the ups and downs of a pitcher returning from injury.
"He was able to get a number of swing-and-misses early on," Farrell said. "It took him an inning or two to really settle in and command the baseball, but he was in a good position even to get out of the first. With a 1-2 count to Morales, that doesn't quite elevate enough, so it ends up being two runs."
With the Red Sox's mission to make a deep postseason run, a 100-percent Rodriguez in the rotation will be paramount, and Farrell says that Monday's performance was a good step.
"I thought first start back, he had good stuff, good arm strength," he said. "He held his stuff through the end of the sixth inning. I thought with the layoff that Eddy had, that was a strong five-plus innings of work here tonight."
Evan Chronis is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston.