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E-Rod clears latest hurdle in Minors start

Price lauds lefty's work ethic during rehab; Utility spot up for grabs
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, who is on a mission to start the season in the rotation instead of the disabled list, aided his cause by stretching out to four innings in a Minor League start on Tuesday.

"I just try to be ready when I'm ready," said Rodriguez. "I feel like I'm getting to that point. I'll see what they want to do now."

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, who is on a mission to start the season in the rotation instead of the disabled list, aided his cause by stretching out to four innings in a Minor League start on Tuesday.

"I just try to be ready when I'm ready," said Rodriguez. "I feel like I'm getting to that point. I'll see what they want to do now."

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After Tuesday's 12-6 win over the Pirates, manager Alex Cora mentioned the club would accelerate Rodriguez's schedule to at least give him a chance to open the season in the rotation.

To that end, Rodriguez is likely to make his next Minor League start on three days of rest, throwing three innings on Saturday.

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"We're just keeping that door open to see if he's ready to start the season with us," Cora said. "I heard everything was fine. His knee felt great. The stuff was there. We'll see how he reacts tomorrow, but that's the plan -- for him to pitch in four days."

When Rodriguez underwent right knee surgery in the offseason, the timetable the Red Sox projected was that he would return in mid-April.

Rodriguez decided he wanted to beat that projection. And now he just might do it.

"He's done it this offseason," said Red Sox lefty David Price. "I was getting videos of him whenever he was at his [physical therapy] and talking about how he was going to be ready for Opening Day. That was December or early January. He's put in a lot of work this offseason and here in Spring Training. It's good to see him get those good results."

Video: BOS@BAL: Swihart opens scoring with a two-run double

Utility spot up for grabs

With a week left in Spring Training, the race is still on for the second utility spot on Boston's bench. Though no announcement has been made, Blake Swihart is a virtual lock to win a roster spot. That leaves Brock Holt, Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin in competition for the other spot. Marrero is the only one of those three players who is out of options.

All three will play in Tuesday's road game in Port Charlotte, Fla., against the Rays.

"They're playing good baseball and then we'll see at the end of the week," said Cora. "We're comfortable with who is competing and whatever decision we make, we're going to be comfortable with it. We're going to be fine."

Video: PIT@BOS: Devers crushes his third homer of the spring

Devers makes an adjustment

Third baseman Rafael Devers has looked more comfortable on defense lately and made two strong plays in the third inning in Tuesday's game. Devers charged a bunt by Joe Musgrove and fired a strike to first for the out. He then got Price out of trouble by starting a 5-3 double play to end the inning.

Cora provided some details of the work Devers has been putting in behind the scenes.

"Raffy, his preset is on time now so he can react and actually use his athleticism to catch the ball," said Cora.

What was the preset adjustment?

"Well, the ball was getting to the hitting zone and he was in the air," Cora said. "You have to have your feet on the ground. Just like a sprinter. You have to be on the ground and you go. It got to the point that he was late, reacting late and he was always getting that in-between hop.

"It seems like he is feeling better. And that's going to help him going to his backhand because he's going to have to first quick-step, crossover and get it."

Up next: The Red Sox have a strong traveling contingent for Wednesday's game in Port Charlotte against the Rays at 1:05 p.m. ET on MLB.TV. J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley Jr. are all expected to be in the lineup. Prospect Marcus Walden will make the start. Roenis Elias and Bobby Poyner, two lefties who are in competition for a roster spot, will see action out of the bullpen.

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

Boston Red Sox, Eduardo Rodriguez