FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox haven't named an Opening Day starter yet, but when interim manager Ron Roenicke gets around to that formality, that honor will more than likely go to lefty Eduardo Rodriguez.
Rodriguez tuned up nicely for that all but inevitable start on March 26 in Toronto by firing three shutout innings (two hits, six strikeouts) in Boston's 5-2 loss to the split-squad Yankees on Saturday.
"He threw some really good pitches. Located his fastball well. Threw some good changeups," said Roenicke. "He got in a little bit of trouble, but his command is so good [that] he's able to get out of it. He makes pitches when he needs to. That was what we needed from him today."
The hope, of course, is that Rodriguez is exactly what the Red Sox will need all season, which is the durable and effective front-end starter he emerged into last year.
In the past, Rodriguez was always a question mark for the Sox heading into the season, usually due to a leg ailment of some sort.
But last year, Rodriguez proved emphatically he could get through a season healthy by busting out with a career year which included a 19-6 record with a 3.81 ERA and 213 strikeouts.
However, no stats were more important than these: 34 starts to tie for the Major League lead. And 203 1/3 innings.
All Rodriguez ever wanted to do was be at his post every fifth day for a full season, and that's what he did last season. And given the way Boston's roster is shaping up for 2020, he needs to do it again.
"We're going to miss Sale the first couple weeks, but we still have Nate, Martin and I, and we can go out every five days," Rodriguez said. "We have the ball in our hands as pitchers, it's just about going out there and seeing what happens every day."
Rodriguez has two goals for 2020. The first is to repeat his totals in starts and innings from last year. The other is to cut down on the league-leading 75 walks he had in '19.
As for Opening Day, Rodriguez won't get wrapped up in that for now.
"If it happens, it happens," Rodriguez said. "But for me, I just need to go out there every five days no matter if it's as the first or the fifth starter. You saw me last year. I can't remember which number I had, but I wasn't No. 1 and I threw 34 starts. So for me, no matter where you are, just go out there every five days."
Bloom to educate on opener
With there being a very real chance the Red Sox will go with an opener in the rotation -- at least early in the season -- chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom will educate Roenicke and the coaching staff on the inner-workings of the system on Sunday.
Bloom helped mastermind the opener with the Rays in 2018, and Roenicke is looking forward to hearing what he has to say about it.
"He's obviously familiar with it, so as a staff he's going to address us tomorrow and just help us see what the thinking is and all these scenarios that do come up and it's not always one formula," Roenicke said. "He said it changes from game to game, depending on whether you're winning, depending on whether you're losing, depending on whether that second guy that comes in is actually really good or if he's an innings eater.
"And all these things change. So I'm looking forward to listening a little bit more on, if we end up this way, how to go about it the best way."
If the Red Sox can get infielder José Peraza back to the player he was two years ago for the Reds, he will be a valuable piece to the lower portion of Boston's lineup.
Peraza showed flashes that he is on the right track by going 2-for-2 with a double on Saturday. He also started a key 4-6-3 double play to get Rodriguez out of trouble in the second inning.
"Yeah, it was nice to see," said Roenicke. "Went down and got a nice curveball. Actually, a line drive to left. You know, sometimes, like I say, they're fast starters. Sometimes with guys, it just takes a bit. Steady on defense, which is going to be huge for us and versatile. He can play those positions and he can go out to left field. So we're fortunate to have him."
Sale will take a big step when he throws batting practice prior to Sunday's game against the Braves. This will mark the first time Sale has thrown to hitters since his start on Aug. 13 against the Indians. Sale was shut down for the rest of the season after that with left elbow woes.
Sale will throw two simulated innings and will accumulate roughly 30 pitches.
Eovaldi, who is likely to be the club's No. 2 starter when the season opens, will take the ball for Sunday's home game against the Braves. Look for Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez to be in the lineup for the Red Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET, and fans can watch live on MLB.TV or listen on Gameday Audio.