The Red Sox would love to see Eduardo Rodriguez on a big league mound soon. (David Butler II-USA Today Sports)
As we noted today, Clay Buchholz faces a do-or-die start on Thursday against the Rockies. If he pitches well, he likely keeps his spot in the rotation for at least another start. If he doesn’t, get ready for the return of Eduardo Rodriguez.
It really might be that simple, and Rodriguez feels he’s closer than ever to being big league ready, thanks to a change in mechanics inspired by teammate David Price that led to the best start of E-Rod’s rehab on Tuesday in Pawtucket.
Rodriguez went seven innings, allowing four hits and one run, striking out seven and walking none in a win over Lehigh Valley. He didn’t quite have last year’s power, with a 92 mph fastball, but he attributed the Ks to something else.
“I can say it was better command,” Rodriguez said. “Every pitch was where I wanted. I didn’t push too much, force it too much to get more velocity. I was trying to throw the ball exactly where I wanted. Sometimes you need power, but most of the time you need to throw the ball to the right spot.”
Rodriguez has shortened his delivery, a la Price, in an attempt to keep his shoulder in line with home plate. With a longer delivery, he has a tendency to open up, he said, leading to misses high and wide to right-handed hitters.
“A little bit more of a side drop-step versus stepping back towards the shortstop in his case,” manager John Farrell explained. “He feels like it keeps him on line through his intended target with his front shoulder a little bit more consistently. I think if you look at the command of his pitches the last time out, there was some positive effect to that, but it is still kind of new for him. So there’s still, just becoming more second nature for him with that adjustment.”
Rodriguez has been sidelined since a spring training right knee injury. He has been pitching with a brace in an attempt to keep the knee stable. Asked if he could pitch in the big leagues at this point, Rodriguez didn’t hesitate.
“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah,” he said. “Feels good. Everything feels right where it is. I have the knee brace now. Everything feels right with the knee. I can trust more in my knee. I can feel more like I’m pitching. I’m not thinking about the knee.”
Rodriguez believes the adjustments have already benefited his fastball by giving him more power from his base.
“All my other starts before and my bullpens, I was using just my shoulder, my shoulder,” he said. “When you create bad habits, you have to work to get back to your regular mechanics. That’s why I think I don’t have my regular velocity. But that’s going to come. I think with every bullpen and every game, it’s going to come more because I’m going to trust more.”
Rodriguez was scheduled to throw a bullpen on Thursday, but he participated in team-wide pitcher fielding drills instead and will throw on Friday. By that point, we’ll know how Buchholz looked, and whether Rodriguez will be starting Sunday for Pawtucket, or on Tuesday in Baltimore for the Red Sox.