FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As a substitute for what would have been his first Grapefruit League start, Eduardo Rodriguez did something much more enjoyable on Monday.
He got to claim bragging rights over one of his favorite teammates.
“With Devers, I mean early today, I said, ‘Do you want to face me today?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do it.’ He said, ‘I’m going to hit the ball out of the ballpark.’ I said, ‘I’m going to strike you out.’ Thank God I won that bet.”
In fact, Rodriguez struck out Devers several times during the battle. The best the lefty slugger could muster was a grounder to second base and a hard foul down the right-field line. Other than that, it was all E-Rod.
“Nasty,” Devers said when he returned to the clubhouse a bit later.
The pitchers are generally ahead of the hitters at this point of spring anyway. But for Devers, who didn’t report to camp until four days ago due to the birth of his daughter, that effect is even bigger.
The most important thing is that E-Rod took a positive first step, firing off two impressive innings of simulation that will count toward the six starts interim manager Ron Roenicke wants him to make this spring.
The reason Rodriguez didn’t pitch in a game was simply due to precaution. He fell in the bullpen last week and tweaked his right knee. Though the Red Sox were sure nothing was seriously wrong with him, they wanted Rodriguez to make his first start in a controlled environment.
He will likely slot into the Grapefruit League rotation in five days and ramp up to three innings.
“I threw everything with full effort,” Rodriguez said. “Threw all my pitches. Everything feels great. It was full effort. I told Bogey and Devers, ‘treat this like a regular game, counts, everything.’ And it was really good.”
It remains to be seen if Rodriguez will have as much fun facing an opponent next time out than he did overpowering the dangerous Devers.
“I mean, it was fun for me,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know if it was fun for him. He was mad at me a little bit because of that. I would have been mad at him if he was hitting the ball pretty hard. That’s how baseball is.”
Roenicke wasn’t ready to divulge that plan just yet, so it’s still unknown if Sale -- who was slowed by the flu and pneumonia at the start of camp -- is in play to pitch on Opening Day. Reading between the lines, it sounds as if Roenicke might want to take a more conservative approach and make sure he gets six starts before pitching in a regular-season game.
“We did talk to him. I’ll probably let you know in a couple days what we’re thinking, have another discussion with him,” Roenicke said. “It was good. We just needed to talk about some things, think about some things, and figure out how we want to proceed with him. He’s doing great.”
Bogaerts making progress
Bogaerts, who came to camp with a sore left ankle, is progressing in his baseball activities. However, there is still no word on when he will play in games.
“Yeah, so he’s going to take some B.P. He just actually took some groundballs about 10 minutes ago,” said Roenicke. “He’s doing good. Nice to get him out on the field, see him running around.”
When you factor in the trade of Mookie Betts and the delayed starts to camp for Devers and Bogaerts, there has been a different feel for the Red Sox on the position-player side so far.
“Have a couple faces missing. You go out there and it just doesn’t feel right,” said Roenicke. “Get Bogey back, get Devers back out there … Devers has been hitting B.P. It will be nice to see those guys all together again.”
Benintendi looking comfortable at top
Andrew Benintendi, who is likely to replace Betts in the leadoff spot, didn’t fare well there last year -- especially in the first inning.
The left fielder was 5-for-42 leading off a game last year. So far in Spring Training, he is 2-for-2.
After belting a single on the first pitch he saw on Saturday, Benintendi led off Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Twins by roping the second pitch he saw from Kenta Maeda over the fence in right for a homer.
"I know he's pretty happy where he is right now and hopefully that continues into the season and we have that player we know he is," Roenicke said of Benintendi.
In the other game of the day's split-squad action, the team visiting the Rays tied, 2-2.
Ryan Weber, one of the candidates for the No. 5 starter or opener slot, will make the start for the Red Sox in Tuesday's home game against the Orioles. Another bubble roster candidate, lefty Brian Johnson, will see action out of the bullpen. First pitch at JetBlue Park is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.