Closing Time: The case for Eduardo Rodriguez

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Eduardo Rodriguez could be something special in his age-25 season (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Eduardo Rodriguez could be something special in his age-25 season (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Red Sox had a frustrating loss on opening day — the bullpen blew Chris Sale’s win at Tampa Bay — but they’re on a 15-1 binge since. They’ve beaten up the Angels the last two days. They lead the majors in runs scored, plus all three of the slash stats (average, OBP, slugging). This looks like a juggernaut.

With that, we want more ways in. And when the bats are all gone, why not get aggressive with the pitching staff? They’ll also benefit from these surroundings.

Hello, Eduardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez showed up on the prospect clipboards around 2014 and 2015, ultimately making a solid debut in the middle of the latter season (10 wins, 3.85 ERA, 1.29 WHIP). Since then, his biggest problem has been staying healthy. He’s only pitched 9.2 innings in his two starts this year — coming back from a knee problem — but you see the potential. Although his ERA sits at 3.72, he’s struck out 35.7 percent of the batters he’s faced. Maybe something fun will happen in his age-25 season.

[It’s not too late to join a Yahoo Fantasy Baseball league!]

The AL East isn’t the offensive slaughterhouse it used to be. Tampa Bay, Baltimore, these are teams you can pick on. There are a handful of spots you might want to steer Rodriguez from, but you can say that about most pitchers in the current game.

Rodriguez is owned in a third of Yahoo leagues. That number will go up significantly if he pitches well Thursday night at Anaheim. Buy now, beat the rush. Trust the strikeouts, and trust the offense supporting him.

• Sticking with the same age and the same division, it seems the Blue Jays are finally ready to see what Teoscar Hernandez can do. With Kendrys Morales hurt and Randal Grichuk not hitting, Hernandez was recalled on Sunday. He’s off to an 8-for-19 push, including a homer and a four-hit game Wednesday. Remember, this is the same guy who clocked eight home runs in just 26 games last year, in a late-season trial.

Hernandez was merely a .269 hitter during eight years in the minors, but showed consistent pop and speed. Last year he had 18 homers and 16 steals in 105 Triple-A games. The Jays seem to be invested for the moment, slotting Hernandez in the No. 2 hole in all four of his starts. He’s ready to add in 79 percent of Yahoo leagues.

• The Jays also have a good thing going with Yangervis Solarte, a long-running Closing Time favorite. Solarte qualifies at three infield positions, he’s homered in the last two games, and he’s rocking a .296/.409/.574 slash. He did quality work in San Diego the last three years, blunted a bit by the team’s low profile and the challenges of Petco Park. Toronto’s park is mostly neutral for offense, but that’s a step forward in this case.

Solarte’s ownership is almost too high for discussion — he’s at 58 percent — but I feel like a few readers can still benefit here. Say yes to flexibility, power, and a player in a better environment.

• You don’t necessarily need a big arm to post big strikeout numbers. Consider what Adam Cimber is doing with the Padres. Despite a fastball that averages 86 mph — that’s no joke, Maxwell — he’s piled up 18 strikeouts against just three walks over 14 innings. The other numbers fall into line: 1.93 ERA, 0.86 WHIP.

Late April is a good time to start hunting for these types of middle-relief heroes, with K/BB as the first indicator. Last year we got to Chad Green and Brad Peacock early, and it paid dividends. If you can live with Cimber’s soft-rock style, he’s waiting for you — owned in just one percent of Yahoo leagues. I won’t use him at Colorado, but I’ll see what he can do against the rest of the NL West.

Jake Faria didn’t go deep in his two starts against Boston — and one of them was an eight-run disaster at Fenway Park — but he’s righted the ship nicely. Faria piled up seven strikeouts in a no-decision against Philly, then fashioned a clean 6-5-1-1-1-6 line in Wednesday’s win over Texas. Ignore the seasonal stats, this is still an interesting pitcher (and someone who gave us 86.2 useful innings last year). You just need to steer Faria away from the Red Sox (that goes for most pitchers in baseball these days).

Faria was cut in a handful of leagues a week or two back, which is why he’s still free in 59 percent of Yahoo at the moment. Use him for Baltimore next week, then bench him for the Boston rematch.

• For Colorado hitters, the fun really hasn’t started yet. The Rockies have played 14 away games compared to just six at Coors Field, the sharpest disparity in the majors. Maybe it presents some sneaky buying opportunities; Chris Iannetta comes to mind.

Iannetta never fully popped during his prospect days, but he’s turned into a useful player in his 30s — consider the .254/.354/.511 line he posted at Arizona last year, with 17 homers in 272 at-bats. Sure, the park helped, but if anything he’s upgraded that — back in the thin air again. Iannetta currently rides at .264/.350/.434 with two homers in 53 at-bats, stats that don’t jump out at you. But crooked Colorado numbers can’t be far away. The Rockies open a six-game homestand — and finally welcome Nolan Arenado back — on Friday.

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