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E-Rod closing in on mid-April return date

Lefty slated to pitch 6 frames Tuesday in Minors before starting official rehab assignment
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

ST. PETERSBURG -- The next step in Eduardo Rodriguez's progression will be Tuesday, when the lefty pitches six innings in a Minor League game in Fort Myers, Fla.

Five days after that, the expectation is that Rodriguez will start an official Minor League rehab assignment by pitching for one of Boston's affiliates.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- The next step in Eduardo Rodriguez's progression will be Tuesday, when the lefty pitches six innings in a Minor League game in Fort Myers, Fla.

Five days after that, the expectation is that Rodriguez will start an official Minor League rehab assignment by pitching for one of Boston's affiliates.

View Full Game Coverage

Under that timetable, the earliest he will pitch for the Red Sox is the weekend of April 13, when the Orioles come to town for a four-game series.

Rodriguez is coming off right knee surgery and the goal is for him to have complete confidence in his health when he returns. That hasn't been the case in the past couple of years when he returned from knee problems.

"It's strictly his knee and his extension," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "It's very important for him to be 100 percent. I think this organization has been through the path before and it seemed like it didn't work out, so we have to make sure he's completely healthy."

Rodriguez could provide the Red Sox with a big boost upon his return. David Price said after his start Friday that Rodriguez threw the ball the best of any Red Sox starter throughout Spring Training.

Video: BOS@TB: Price strikes out five in seven scoreless

Drew Pomeranz, another lefty on the mend (flexor strain in left forearm), will pitch four or five innings in a Minors game on Wednesday.

Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson, who will start Sunday and Monday, are currently filling in for Rodriguez and Pomeranz in Boston's rotation.

Sale, Johnson pack bats for Miami
Red Sox ace Chris Sale prepared for his Interleague start in Miami on Tuesday by taking batting practice before Saturday's game. With his final swing, Sale put one over the wall in right and jokingly did a bat flip.

Will Cora tape the bat to Sale's shoulder on Tuesday so he won't be tempted to swing?

Video: BOS@TB: Sale throws six one-hit frames in first start

"I don't know if I'm going to be able to do that the way he's talking. We'll see. He's talking a lot about [Ian] Happ," Cora said. "He saw the game the other day; it's the same starter. We'll see."

Sale was jokingly talking about the Cubs' Happ, who led off Opening Day by taking Jose Urena deep. Urena is scheduled to face Sale and the Red Sox on Tuesday.

The real hitting pitcher to watch for Boston is Johnson. He was a solid hitter during his college career at the University of Florida, belting 15 homers in 478 at-bats.

"BJ hit a homer off the slash [bunt]," Cora said. "That's interesting, the BJ one. He was a good hitter six years ago, but that doesn't count."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Eduardo Rodriguez