FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox might wind up boasting the best rotation in the Majors this season, and overpowering stuff will be a prominent reason, but not the only one.To see a great starting rotation take shape, sometimes you need to look no further than the tone being
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox might wind up boasting the best rotation in the Majors this season, and overpowering stuff will be a prominent reason, but not the only one.
To see a great starting rotation take shape, sometimes you need to look no further than the tone being set on days like Saturday, the fourth day of Spring Training.
Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez weren't just getting their work done, as you hear a lot of people say this time of year. They were trying to perfect their craft with each movement and each pitch. It was eye-opening to Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
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"They're locked in," Cora said. "The way they go about their business is impressive. It's impressive how they take so much pride at hitting spots, and they miss by an inch and they're upset. I said that last year about David and Porcello and Chris."
But the group looks as if it's ready to go from a Big Three to a Fab Five. Eovaldi, last July's crucial acquisition and October hero, is here for a full season this time. And Rodriguez, who has always had as much talent as anyone on the staff, looks poised to put it all together now that he is fully healthy.
"You see Nate, the stuff, how crisp it is, and the velocity, it's pretty impressive for Feb. ," Cora said. "It's good to see them actually competing like that. They take pride in what they do, and they know they set the tempo for us. I'm very proud of how they do it."
The 25-year-old Rodriguez is fortunate. Not only has he had Sale, Price and Porcello to lean on, but also Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, a Red Sox special assistant and a special instructor during camp.
"What I've been learning from all the veterans here and Pedro and all those guys is that it's similar for the hitters, that when they go to the cage, that's the only time they have to work on their mechanics and their swing and everything," Rodriguez said. "So for us as pitchers, that's the only time you really have for working on your mechanics and everything. When you're just playing catch, you don't do the same things you do on the mound. So that's why we take it that seriously. I learned from them and the way they take their bullpens."
And on Saturday, the Red Sox had Darwinzon Hernandez, one of their most talented lefty prospects, observe Sale and Price.
"It's a good teaching experience for him," Cora said. "They're pretty good at what they do, preparation wise and all that, and for the kid to just walk around with them and ask questions and see how they go about their business is a plus for us."
Boston's rotation is the perfect example of how culture can be set from the top.
"Well, we talk about every day we come to the ballpark, whether it's your bullpens or your PFP drills and trying to gain an edge as a team and individually, to beat the competition," Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie said. "There's a purpose behind every pitch you throw. There's a purpose behind every PFP drill we take, and it's a way to keep you going. That's what those guys do, and that's why they're so successful.
"They set the tone in a lot of different ways, not just on the bullpen mounds, but inside the clubhouse, inside the weight room. There's a lot of different ways they bring value to our team."
And starting on March 28, when the season opens in Seattle, that value will be evident in a more tangible way: the stat sheet.
The Red Sox will be surprised if their rotation isn't among the best, provided it stays healthy.
"It's one of the best -- if not the best -- one through five," Cora said. "We're thinking about how we're going to split them up, the lefties, how we're gonna do that. But it's cool because our lefties are all different -- Sale with the fastball and slider, David with location and that changeup, Eduardo stuff-wise is up there with them. Like they like to say, 'He's better than us.'
"Then you've got Rick, who hits his spots and uses his four-seamer. Stuff-wise, Nate is amazing. It's cool to have them. It's cool to have them go out there and just put that name beside the P [on the lineup card], and have them go out there and go five, six [innings]. That's a good feeling. Looking forward to having them perform."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.