Eduardo Rodriguez’s Boston Red Sox return was made on Thursday. It had been over a year since the lefty ace took the mound. Rodriguez earned his first win since September 24, 2019, in a 7-3 win against the Baltimore Orioles. In an encouraging start, Rodriguez pitched five innings, giving up four hits, allowing three runs, and striking out seven.
For the Red Sox organization, it was much more than a game. After the game, manager Alex Cora expressed how great it was seeing Rodriguez out on the mound again. “For him to compete out there and give us five strong innings, that was very gratifying — for the organization, for each individual here,” Cora told the Boston Globe.
Rodriguez was sorely missed in the Red Sox starting rotation. Boston ranked near the bottom of every pitching category you can think of. Despite some early hiccups, Rodriguez showed flashes of his 2019 form. Let’s break down a couple of takeaways from E-Rod’s return.
Rodriguez presented the Orioles with a steady mix of his five-pitch arsenal. His changeup was his most utilized pitch. In only 79 pitches, Rodriguez threw all five of his pitches at least 10 times.
His most effective of those pitches seemed to be his cutter and his four-seam fastball. The cutter garnered a 30% Whiff percentage. It was most effective when he was able to locate it on the outer part of the plate against righties with two strikes.
It was evident Rodriguez made a concerted effort to mix in his slider. In 2019 he utilized the slider the least. While the slider wasn’t that effective it showed that he wasn’t scared to present the Orioles with different looks. Rodriguez’s slider earned a 0% Whiff on 11 pitches and only two called strikes.
On the downside, Rodriguez’s four-seam fastball was definitely a bit off. While Rodriguez has never been known as a hard thrower, he used it well in 2019 as one of his most effective put-away pitches (21%).
Its average velocity has seen a steady decrease each year for Rodriguez since 2015. In this start he threw it 13 times, only getting two whiffs on seven swings and an average velocity of 92.6 mph.
When it was hit it was hit hard. The average exit velocity on his four-seamer was 101 mph. Orioles rookie Ryan Mountcastle took Rodriguez deep in the 1st inning on a four-seamer up in the zone. The exit velocity on that home run was 109 mph, making that the hardest-hit ball of the game for the Orioles.
Even the Red Sox broadcast team of Dave O’Brien and Dennis Eckersley took note that Rodriguez’s fastball looked a bit slower than usual. Now to be fair to Rodriguez, this is his first start in quite some time, so to expect no rust is a little unrealistic.
Rodriguez’s Red Sox return in all was solid. He kept the Sox in the game and put up an impressive strikeout count in only five innings. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Rodriguez to get back into shape and also how he will continue to mix his pitches. The Red Sox will definitely need him to be in the 2019 form that saw him finish sixth in that year’s Cy Young voting.
Rodriguez is scheduled to take the mound again on April 15th against the Minnesota Twins.
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