FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A crowd of pitchers, coaches and members of the Red Sox's front office formed around Field 1 at Jet Blue Park late Tuesday morning -- a signal that something significant was happening at Fenway South.
The event was lefty Eduardo Rodriguez throwing live batting practice for the first time in Spring Training.
In other years, that wouldn't be nearly as noteworthy. But given that Rodriguez missed all of last year due to myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), everyone looked forward to seeing him on the bump again.
Rodriguez looked effortless while throwing to a group of teammates including J.D. Martinez and Christian Vázquez.
"He looks good," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "The usual. Under control. Not too much effort with the ball coming out of his hand the way it used to. For a guy that didn't compete and didn't pitch last year, he looks very similar to what we saw in 2019 in Spring Training -- working his craft, working on hitting his spots and trying to get better. I'm happy for him personally. It wasn't easy for him last year and for him to be able to show up and do normal things as a regular baseball player is good for him."
Cora also noted the change in the way Rodriguez is viewed by teammates even from when he first became manager in 2018.
No longer is Rodriguez the kid who was constantly following Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello trying to learn the tricks of the trade. Now he's the one teammates are looking up to, which was obvious from the crowd he drew on Field 1.
"He's a great baseball player, but he's a better human being and a great teammate and he's becoming one of those guys that people look up to," said Cora. "It's weird, right? Because when I got here in 2018, and even early in '19, it didn't seem that way, but he grew up, and he is one of the leaders of this team. He's going to be one of the quiet leaders of the pitching staff and I'm glad that everybody went out there and saw him."
Though there hasn't been an announcement yet, all signs point to Rodriguez getting the nod when the Red Sox open their season on April 1 at Fenway Park against the Orioles.
Pivetta pushing forward
Nick Pivetta followed Rodriguez on Field 1 by throwing an inning against his teammates, and it was hard not to notice when he threw a wicked slider that Rafael Devers swung awkwardly at and missed.
The righty is battling for a rotation spot, and the Red Sox continue to be excited about the pitcher they acquired from the Phillies last August for Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree.
"He's worked so hard to put himself where he's at right now physically, mentally, mechanics-wise," said Cora. "He's a guy that's open to keep learning and I'm happy he's part of us. He did a good job toward the end of last season. He did a good job at the alternate [training] site and he just wants to keep improving. And this is a guy we trust, and like I've been saying all along, he's one of those guys that has a lot of upside.
"He proved it last year in a small sample size. I do believe the ability is there, the pitchability is there, the stuff is there. Just let him be himself, go out and compete and see where it takes us."
New kid in town
It isn't often that a Draft pick out of high school gets a Major League invite to his first Spring Training.
But that's what the Red Sox have done with Nick Yorke, bringing him to camp as a non-roster invite.
The 18-year-old second baseman was the 17th overall pick last June out of Archbishop Mitty High in San Jose, Calif.
"It made me feel old. [My daughter] Camila turns 18 in March," quipped Cora. "It's like, 'Wow, this is unreal.' I saw him a few days ago in the batting cage and he's lost some weight, he's in a better place physically. He's a tall, strong kid. That was impressive. I looked and was like, 'Who's this kid?' They told me and I was like, 'Wow, that's impressive.'"
According to Cora, catcher Kevin Plawecki, who was placed on the COVID-19 injured list at the start of camp, should be arriving in Fort Myers within the next day or two.
The hope is that newly acquired Japanese righty Hirokazu Sawamura will get to camp next week provided his visa issue is cleared up.
The Red Sox also hope to soon officially announce the signing of utility player Marwin Gonzalez. The veteran agreed to terms with the club on Feb. 11, and it's just a matter of some procedural matters getting ironed out.