FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Two days before the official start of Red Sox Spring Training, manager Alex Cora seemed to enjoy one observation the most as he watched several of his players take part in a voluntary workout.
It involved lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, who threw a bullpen session along with ace Chris Sale and some of the other starters.
"Eddie looks great, physically. Everybody is in the best shape of their life when they come to Spring Training, but he's actually in the best shape of his life," Cora said.
For once, Rodriguez could just spend the winter working his arm and body into shape rather than rehabbing an injury.
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"For the first time in a while, he was able to have a normal offseason, and you can see it in his body," Cora said.
The 25-year-old Rodriguez could be an important innings-eater for the Red Sox earlier in the season as Cora tries to take it easy on Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi.
If E-Rod is looking slimmer, Sale is looking a little sturdier, and that's always a good thing.
"Chris looks great. He has gained some weight," Cora said. "And he's been throwing with no setbacks."
The lanky Sale did everything in his power to add a little bit more to his foundation after dealing with left shoulder tendinitis through much of the second half of last season.
"He was very aggressive with his offseason workouts," Cora said. "We're very pleased with the way he went about it. All of them. It's good to see him gaining weight and throwing the ball the way he's been throwing the past few weeks. We're very comfortable with him."
For openers, no closer
Don't expect Cora to name his closer by Wednesday's start of camp. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier have been the two most frequently mentioned candidates to replace Craig Kimbrel, who remains a free agent.
"I think for me it's too early to answer that one. I have to talk to the players first before I answer that," Cora said. "But we have some capable guys who can get outs in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning. What Barnes did last year was amazing.
"If you start looking where he pitched during the regular season and during the playoffs, getting the [middle of the order] from the seventh inning on, he was amazing. Brasier did an outstanding job. But for me, it's too soon. I'm going to sit down with them and talk to them. I don't want anybody to come here and try to win a job the first day of Spring Training. I'll talk to them, and we'll figure it out."
Pedroia eager to get to work
Cora had told second baseman Dustin Pedroia during the winter not to bother getting to camp too early. The expectation was that Pedroia would arrive a day or two before the team's first full-squad workout on Feb. 18. However, it sounds as if Pedroia could arrive sooner.
"I thought he was coming on Sunday but it might be ... in two or three days or whatever," Cora said. "I told him a few months ago to just be patient. He feels he's in a good spot, but we'll see him here and see how we're going to work him. Obviously we have to take care of him, but at the same time, we have to push him. He's ready to roll. He's ready for that. Looking forward to working with him the whole spring."
Pedroia missed all but three games last season in his comeback from left knee surgery. The veteran is hoping to be a full go from the start of Spring Training.
The catching competition among Christian Vázquez, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart remains wide open, and one of those players is likely to be traded before Opening Day.
"We have three capable guys. They did an outstanding job last year. Sandy, Christian, they have the bulk of the at-bats last year and the innings. But Blake had 190 at-bats and even caught one of the most important innings in the playoffs," Cora said. "Coming in, we know how we feel about them and see how it plays out."