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E-Rod becoming Red Sox ace by being himself

August 24, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- When asked about being the ace of this year’s Red Sox team, Eduardo Rodriguez quickly got deferential, noting that Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Cashner all have a lot more time in the Major Leagues than he does. However, a key to

SAN DIEGO -- When asked about being the ace of this year’s Red Sox team, Eduardo Rodriguez quickly got deferential, noting that Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Cashner all have a lot more time in the Major Leagues than he does.

However, a key to Rodriguez’s breakout season is that he’s stopped trying to be Sale, Price or Porcello and has carved his own niche as one of the most effective starters in the American League.

Rodriguez, who spun seven shutout innings in Friday's win over the Padres, is tied for second in the AL with 15 wins. He is 13th in ERA (3.92), ninth in innings (160 2/3) and 11th in strikeouts (155).

“I think with Eddie, he’s so talented, but I think he’s whittled down his menu of pitches,” said assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister. “He’s realized what his strengths are, and I think he’s stopped trying to throw every pitch or pitches that other guys feature and he’s gotten really good at throwing the pitches he’s really good at.”

The results of the refined approach have been there for everyone to see.

“I’ve seen more consistency, I’ve seen confidence, the ability to execute under pressure and just really him carving out his own identity as opposed to always looking outside of himself and trying to figure out who he is,” Bannister said.

While Rodriguez has been fortunate to have three terrific mentors, separating himself from them hasn’t always been easy for the 26-year-old.

“For how great they are, they’re pretty unique at what they do,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “It’s good to listen to them, but at the end, you’ve got to be yourself out there, and he’s done an outstanding job. His changeup, we feel, is one of the best in the big leagues. His fastball up in the zone is his best fastball. Sometimes he gets caught up on tricking hitters and all that, and sometimes we pay the price.”

Cora thinks the turning point of Rodriguez’s season was May 26, when he beat Justin Verlander in Houston. Since that point, the lefty is 11-2 with a 3.14 ERA in 17 starts.

“He’s been very consistent. Early in the season, he struggled against lefties, and now he’s taking advantage of that,” said Cora. “There’s not too much hard contact.

"When he struggles, it’s more about command and all that. He took that step. This is a guy we challenge on a daily basis. Even now, we’ll find something that he didn’t do or he needs to do better [than] yesterday for his next one. We keep working.”

Mookie honors Papi

Red Sox star Mookie Betts has used Players' Weekend to honor mentor and former teammate David Ortiz with some custom-made cleats.

The shoes have the name “Papi” on them, with images of Ortiz and his No. 34.

“It’s great,” said Cora. “I mean he’s a big part of what [Betts has] done in his career, and it’s a great tribute for David.”

Shop for Players’ Weekend gear

Chavis warms up for Pawtucket

Infielder Michael Chavis had a strong second game of his Minor League rehab assignment for Triple-A Pawtucket. Playing at Buffalo on Saturday, Chavis went 3-for-4 and belted two doubles.

Out since Aug. 12 with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder, Chavis could return at some point on this eight-game road trip, which will continue in Denver and Anaheim after the Red Sox leave San Diego on Sunday.