E-Rod labors through start, but 'feeling good'

Left-hander calls Opening Day assignment against Orioles 'amazing'

March 22nd, 2021

Maybe things were too easy for in his first three Grapefruit League starts, when he breezed through the competition by striking out 14, walking nine and giving up a mere three runs.

Boston's lefty ace might have accomplished more in a 10-4 win on Monday against the Rays, when he fought to find his command, pitched just two innings and then spent extensive time fine-tuning things with many throws over two simulated innings in the bullpen.

"I'm feeling good," Rodriguez said. "Today was one of those days that I really like to have, especially in Spring Training, because then you know where the pitches are at, what you have to keep working on. So it was kind of good to learn from."

It was surprising that Rodriguez went only two innings after going five last time out. But after throwing 45 pitches in those two innings, manager Alex Cora decided not to belabor things for his Opening Day starter.

"One of those [games] that during spring, you can see how they feel stuff-wise and throughout the week," said Cora. "It's not that he was hurt or whatever, but didn't look great, you know? You hit the wall. That's part of spring. Let him face the lineup once and finish in the bullpen. He didn't look great either location-wise, so we just took care of him. He went to the bullpen, finished his work and now he's ready for the next one."

Facing the division-rival Rays for the second time this spring also might have factored into the decision that Cora and E-Rod made to cut the performance short.

"I would say because I was a little bit out of command, I threw too many pitches in those two innings, so we talked in the dugout and decided to go to the bullpen and finish the work over there," Rodriguez said. "That's a lineup I'm going to see a lot during the season, so we just decided to finish the work in the bullpen because I threw too many pitches."

For the Red Sox and Rodriguez, these are great problems to have. It sure beats 2020, when Rodriguez suffered through COVID-19 and then a subsequent heart condition called myocarditis that cut out his entire season.

With just one start left before he faces the Orioles on Opening Day, Rodriguez is working on things that every pitcher works on at this point of camp.

"Building up, building on my strength, building on my pitch count and working on the command," said Rodriguez. "The last two starts were really good. Today I struggled with it, so I have to keep working on it."

Once he gets through the grind of Spring Training, Rodriguez will experience the thrill of pitching Opening Day for the first time in his career when the Red Sox host the Orioles on April 1 at Fenway Park.

That was an honor Rodriguez was scheduled to enjoy last year, only to have the health woes that robbed him of it.

That will perhaps make it even more special a year later.

"It feels really good. It feels amazing to have the chance after all those legends that have been the Opening Day starter," said Rodriguez. "For me, it feels really good to be part of it."