The Red Sox have a new Opening Day starter.
“The way we presented it to [Rodriguez] and to the pitching staff -- especially in this season that there's a lot of unknowns -- their bodies are going to let us know how we treat them,” Cora said. “Eddie was honest about it, we've been talking the last few days and that's a decision we made.”
Rodriguez threw just two innings in his most recent start on Monday, showing diminished stuff during the outing that raised a red flag. The left-hander didn’t throw his scheduled bullpen session Wednesday, though he played catch on Thursday and “felt fine,” per Cora.
“He didn't feel as strong as the previous outings, arm-wise; shoulder, arm, there's nothing specific there,” Cora said. “He pushed hard for [Opening Day], but I think the smart thing from my end is to play it smart, take the decision out of the player. We made the decision for him.”
Rodriguez went 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA in 2019, finishing sixth in American League Cy Young Award voting. He missed all of 2020 while recovering from myocarditis, but Cora said this latest issue is not related. Once Rodriguez’s schedule was pushed back this week, it became difficult for the Red Sox to keep him lined up for the opener.
“It sucks for him, because going into ’20, he was supposed to be the Opening Day starter; going into ‘21, we announced it and now he's not,” Cora said. “I told him, ‘The way you throw the ball, the way your career is going, at one point in your career, you will be an Opening Day starter -- maybe more than once.
“He took it as a professional. I think the communication is very clear, very genuine. For him to accept it, think about the future and not the first game of the season is a testament to who he is right now as a pitcher, as a person, as a leader on this team.”
This will mark the second straight Opening Day assignment for Eovaldi, who went 4-2 with a 3.72 ERA in nine starts in 2020. Now in the third year of a four-year, $68 million contract, Eovaldi has a 6.60 ERA this spring, though he threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Orioles in his most recent start. Cora said Eovaldi will throw bullpens on Friday and Monday, then start Thursday.
It is not yet known whether Rodriguez will be forced to open the season on the injured list, as the Red Sox will assess his status in the coming days. He is slated to throw a bullpen session on Saturday, then possibly another early next week, after which an IL decision will be made.
Cora said he and his staff were still working to line up starters for the rest of the season-opening homestand against the Orioles and Rays.
“It’s such a big deal, because it’s Opening Weekend,” Cora said. “If this happens during the season, it's not a big deal; you skip one guy, you move the other one, and you make decisions based on your schedule and where they’re at. Because everything was so structured up until now, now we have to scramble a little bit.”