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Recovering E-Rod eager to find pre-injury form

Talented lefty coming off surgery to repair troublesome knee
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- Now that his right knee is at last ready to provide a stable foundation for him, Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez should be on the list of potential breakout pitchers around MLB in 2018.

The man known in Red Sox circles as E-Rod has always contained the arsenal -- mid-90s fastball, strong changeup, solid sinker and slider -- to succeed at the highest level.

BOSTON -- Now that his right knee is at last ready to provide a stable foundation for him, Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez should be on the list of potential breakout pitchers around MLB in 2018.

The man known in Red Sox circles as E-Rod has always contained the arsenal -- mid-90s fastball, strong changeup, solid sinker and slider -- to succeed at the highest level.

But each time Rodriguez was ready to take off, his knee would give out on him.

After suffering three subluxations in a span of two years, Rodriguez did something to change his fortunes in October when he underwent right knee patellofemoral ligament reconstruction surgery.

The recovery time could force Rodriguez to miss a couple of starts at the beginning of the season, but he will take the long-term tradeoff.

Tweet from @eduardorod5: Surgery done perfect now is time to recovery... come back strong and finally pitch at 100% show time 👏👏👊👊💪💪🙏🙏#letgo2018 #52 #redsoxnation pic.twitter.com/8pr6HxSRSU

What kind of difference will it make for Rodriguez being able to pitch with full confidence in his knee?

"You'll see," Rodriguez said recently. "[The injury] happened, like, three times already. I was just trying to fight to pitch with a knee like that. And I did it. Sometimes there would be ups and downs. Now it's time to get back to the guy I was before I got the surgery."

The rehab has gone just as Rodriguez hoped it would.

"I just feel way better now," Rodriguez said. "I feel like my kneecap isn't going to pop out anymore. That's a good thing, because I feel comfortable now."

In his first three Major League seasons, all with the Red Sox, Rodriguez is 19-20 with a 4.23 ERA. Thanks to the injuries and some inconsistency, he logged 107 innings in 2016 and 137 1/3 innings in '17.

Video: BOS@CIN: Rodriguez tosses 7 2/3 scoreless frames

There's room for improvement, some of which should come naturally through more experience.

The 24-year-old Rodriguez could serve as a big weapon for a Boston rotation that also includes three other highly talented lefties in Chris Sale, David Price and Drew Pomeranz.

Rodriguez doesn't want to be left out.

"It's hard to be sitting on the sidelines and seeing everybody playing," Rodriguez said. "Maybe this year I'll be ready to just throw and not think of the knee anymore."

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

Boston Red Sox, Eduardo Rodriguez