Red Sox scratch E-Rod from opener; Eovaldi to pitch instead

·4 min read

The Boston Red Sox on Friday scratched Eduardo Rodriguez as the opening day starter because of a “dead arm” that pushed back his final spring tuneup. Nathan Eovaldi will face the Baltimore Orioles in the April 1 opener instead.

Manager Alex Cora said Rodriguez missed a bullpen session on Wednesday, two days after lasting just two innings in a spring training start against Tampa Bay. He played catch Thursday and felt fine, Cora said.

“With the schedule the way it is, he won’t be able to post,” said Cora, who had announced Rodriguez as the opening day starter last week. “It doesn’t add up. You start adding days and you run out of days.”

Rodriguez had also been pegged to start the 2020 season opener before it was delayed by the coronavirus outbreak. The 27-year-old left-hander contracted COVID-19 and related heart problems that kept him from pitching at all last season.

Cora said the current issue is unrelated to the myocarditis.

“It's just dead arm,” the manager said, adding, "going into '20 he was supposed to be the opening day starter. Going into ’21 we announce it, and now he’s not.”

Rodriguez was the most dependable member of the Red Sox rotation in 2019, winning 19 games despite pitching in the shadow of Cy Young winners David Price and Rick Porcello and seven-time All-Star Chris Sale. With Price and Porcello gone and Sale recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2020, Rodriguez inherited the role of ace.

But he never made it to the mound.

This year, he is crucial if the team is to have any hope of competing in the AL East. Cora said it was too early to tell if Rodriguez will need to start the season on the injury list.

“We’ll see how it plays out for him to get back to the mound,” Cora said. “There’s a lot of unknowns. Their bodies are going to let us know how we treat them.”

Cora said before Friday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays that Rodriguez pushed to make start the opener but the team took the decision out of his hands.

“Like I told him yesterday, I said, ‘The way you throw the ball, the way your career is going, at one point in your career you will be an opening day starter — maybe more than once,’” Cora said.

“He took it as a professional,” he said. “For him to accept it and think about the future — and not the first game of the season — is a testament to who he is.”

Eovaldi started the opener in Rodriguez's place last year will do so again next week, Cora said. To prepare, he will have two more bullpen sessions before the team breaks camp in Fort Myers, Florida.

“He’s built up as far as the pitches and all that,” Cora said. “He’s ready to go. It’s just a matter of how we manage his week.”

Also Friday, Cora said the team said it told Rule 5 draftee Garrett Whitlock that he will make the opening day roster. The 24-year-old righty has struck out 12 in nine innings while allowing one run in four outings this spring.

“It’s a great moment when you tell somebody that you’re going to be a big leaguer,” Cora said. “It’s priceless.”

Whitlock did not pitch last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. But the Red Sox had seen enough of him through 2019 to take a chance on him in the Rule 5 minor league draft. (A player selected must remain on the roster the entire season or be offered back to his original team.)

“The organization did their homework and we decided to draft him. From there on, it’s up to him. He did everything possible to make the team, and I know he’s not going to stop," Cora said. "You can be a Rule 5 or a 10-year vet, but the way he threw the ball ... he’s getting better and better.”

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Jimmy Golen, The Associated Press