Notes: E-Rod on IL; drama builds on closer

April 1st, 2021

BOSTON -- The Red Sox have set their plan in motion with ace . It started with the lefty going on the injured list retroactive to Monday with left elbow inflammation and will continue with a simulated game at the alternate training site in Worcester, Mass., on Friday.

If all goes well, it will be capped by Rodriguez making his first start of the season -- and first since 2019 -- by the middle of next week.

Righty , ranked the club's No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline, was added to the Opening Day roster and will start in E-Rod's place on Saturday afternoon against the Orioles.

Rodriguez would have started Opening Day if not for experiencing a "dead arm" in his final Grapefruit League start on March 22 against the Rays. From there, the team took a conservative approach, bearing in mind that Rodriguez didn't pitch at all last season due to myocarditis.

"And like we said, him going on the IL, it's nothing long term," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "We ran out of time. We'll build him up. The hope is for him to rejoin us sooner rather than later, and sooner is like next week."

The earliest Rodriguez can be activated is April 8, when the Sox play the Orioles at Camden Yards.

Unlike the early days of last season when the Sox scrambled when Rodriguez went down for the season, they have an alternative they are excited about in Houck, who went 3-0 with a 0.53 ERA in three starts at the end of last season.

"Well, second game of the season, right away Tanner's going to pitch," said Cora. "I still remember him pitching last year and reading about how he was supposed to be in the Opening Day roster next year and he was going to help us out to be better. Well, you know what? He was going to start the season in Triple-A. Right away we need a guy, and it's Tanner Houck. So, I think that's a lot better than actually what happened in [2019], obviously what happened in '20, so we're in a good spot."

Drama builds regarding closer
Cora might know who his closer will be to start the season, but he doesn't want to tell the media just yet. He did speak with top candidates and about how he plans to use them.

"I mean, let's keep you guys in suspense," said Cora. "But I talked to both guys, and they're going to be very important in the eighth and ninth. I don't want to handcuff them mentally or physically, like, 'Hey, you've got the ninth, you've got the eighth.'"

The COVID-19 scare that Barnes had a few days ago likely delayed Cora's decision. It was ultimately ruled that Barnes had a non-infectious positive test and he was cleared for action after missing two days in camp.

"Talking to both of them, they know they're going to get important outs in the last two innings," said Cora. "Barnesy, most likely, you know, we've got to see how he feels. I do feel like he's built up for what's coming. But those are the things that kind of slowed down the decision as far as this. But those two guys, they're going to be pitching in those two innings. Their versatility is very important for us.

"Barnesy has been amazing in the seventh and eighth, and I know he can do the job in the ninth. With Adam, obviously it's a different look, and we can mix and match with him. Saying that we have a closer right now, yeah, maybe, maybe we don't. But I think those two guys are going to be very important for us."

Brasier to IL
Though this news was expected for weeks, reliever was placed on the injured list on Thursday with a left calf strain, retroactive to Monday.

Brasier fractured his right pinkie finger during his offseason training and arrived to camp late after tending to a personal matter. And in the last week of camp, he suffered the calf strain in a "B" game.

Cora had planned on Brasier being his main setup guy in the seventh inning.

Japanese rookie righty could earn that responsibility in time, but the Red Sox don't want to throw too much at him too quickly.

Lefty figures to be a key setup piece early in the season for the Sox. , another lefty, could also be asked to get important outs. Matt Andriese can pitch long or middle relief.

Marwin to get nod on Opening Day
With lefty John Means starting for the Orioles on Friday, left fielder will wait until Saturday to make his first start for the Red Sox.

, who will play just about everywhere for the Sox this season, will play left field on Friday.

While Cora has been tinkering with his outfield alignments all spring, will start the opener in center, with in right.