Eduardo Rodriguez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Eduardo Rodriguez admitted Sunday was not one his better days.
“Yeah, because I know it was partly my fault,” the Red Sox pitcher said of his team’s 10-5 loss to the Tigers, in which replacement starter Henry Owens was roughed up for eight runs in five innings. “I was supposed to pitch that game. I feel bad but I have to get ready for the next one.”
The lefty started that process of returning from his hamstring issue while at Tropicana Field prior to Monday night’s game, throwing about 70-80 percent effort level off the mound in the visitors’ bullpen under the watchful eye of pitching coach Carl Willis. Tuesday, he will continue the process by tossing a three-inning simulated game.
The way things are going, Rodriguez, and Red Sox manager John Farrell, both sound like the plan is for the pitcher to make his next start, although that has yet to be scheduled. The optimism is, however, remains dependent on Tuesday’s exercise.
“We need to test him at more intense levels when compared to a normal bullpen,” Farrell said. “He went through treatment today, went out, went through a throwing program, everything is scheduled for that sim game tomorrow. So more than anything, it’s not so much to answer the physical side of it, but it’s for him to test it at a higher intensity and for him to gain some comfort mentally — that’s the biggest key, to go out and have that conviction to pitches to be thrown.”
And that brings us to the biggest issue: the mental side of the equation.
The way Rodriguez explained it, the reason for the (as Farrell described it) “second thoughts” was because of a lack of confidence that his hamstring would hold up. It was a mindset that lingered from his June 27, 2 2/3-inning, nine run outing at Tropicana Field, during which he couldn’t shake the concern over his injured right knee.
“The thing is I had that experience before with my knee. I went out there and was just thinking about my knee and when I threw the ball, remember what happened here? I gave up nine runs because I was thinking of my knee and every pitch was right down the middle,” he said. “I don’t want to think about it. Because I had that experience before with my knee.
“I want to feel 100 percent. And I don’t want to think about it. Like I do right now, now I’m not thinking about my knee and I just throw the ball so I can get 100 percent and I’m not thinking about it.”
So what happened in the days leading up to Sunday’s scheduled start, when he ultimately told Farrell at 5:45 p.m. Saturday that he wasn’t ready to go?
Initially, there were the questions from the coaching staff following the shortened start Tuesday night in Baltimore.
“They ask me and I just said, ‘I’m good and I’ll keep working, get that 100 percent and get back on it,'” Rodriguez said.
And then Friday?
“I said I was good because I had one more day,” he said.
But in the end, the pitcher found himself to be a bit too optimistic, leading to the Red Sox have to fly in Owens the morning of his Sunday afternoon start.
“I was getting better,” Rodriguez said, “but four days is too short.”
Now, with the lessons learned, Rodriguez and the Red Sox turn to Tuesday. He explained his hamstring, “not painful like it was like the day after. It’s just tight.” But it’s good enough to give it a whirl in the simulated game.
“I threw today and it felt pretty good,” he said.