There are going to be bumps in most young players’ careers. When Eduardo Rodriguez hits them, he flies over the handlebars. That needs to change.
Rodriguez crashed hard Monday in Game 1 of the Boston Red Sox’s doubleheader against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. The 22-year-old surrendered seven runs in the second inning of an 11-1 loss, marking his third major wreck this season — a startling trend for the rookie.
“I missed some spots with some pitches — with the changeup and the fastball,” Rodriguez told reporters in Anaheim. “I didn’t throw (the ball where) I wanted. I wanted some pitches down in the zone and they didn’t go there. There wasn’t good location (Monday).”
There hasn’t been much time to brace for impact with Rodriguez. He’s allowed six runs or more in three starts — he has allowed two or fewer in his other seven — and each disastrous outing has been the product of one or two huge innings in which the opposition runs directly over the left-hander.
The Red Sox’s defense certainly didn’t help Rodriguez on June 14, when he allowed nine earned runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Rodriguez still needs his share of the blame pie, though. He allowed four singles, a walk and a home run as the Jays scored six runs in the fourth inning. He then was charged with three more runs in the fifth inning after a walk, a single and a double followed back-to-back groundouts to open the frame.
Rodriguez’s collapse June 25 against the Baltimore Orioles was even more abrupt. He allowed seven consecutive hits, including a two-run homer, in the fourth inning after retiring 10 straight to begin the game. He never made it out of the inning and the Red Sox lost 8-6. Even worse, he tipped his pitches.
Which brings us to Monday. Rodriguez, who had strung together three consecutive solid starts following his June 25 meltdown, hit a brick wall in the second inning. Chris Iannetta gave the Angels a 1-0 lead with a one-out RBI single. Seven pitches later, it was 7-0 and Red Sox manager John Farrell took the baseball. Rodriguez allowed six hits, including two homers, in the inning.
Farrell insisted after the game Rodriguez wasn’t tipping his pitches, though it looked in the second inning like the Angels knew what was coming. Albert Pujols, for instance, absolutely demolished a good-looking breaking ball located down and in.
“He had trouble commanding the baseball, saw a number of changeups pushed up to the arm side. Then, the second inning, they were quick strike,” Farrell said. “But, no, it wasn’t a matter of tipping anything off (Monday). That’s been rectified.”
Either way, as former Red Sox infielder Alex Cora noted on Twitter during the game, the word’s out across the league that Rodriguez tipped his pitches earlier this season. Thus, he needs to be extremely careful. Opponents are going to search high and low for potential tells. It’s another hurdle he must clear.
One bad outing — or even three — certainly doesn’t erase all of the positives of Rodriguez’s rookie season. There have been times when he’s looked like Boston’s best pitcher, and his 4.64 ERA — up from the 3.59 mark he had to begin Monday — doesn’t do him justice. But there continue to be reminders that Rodriguez still is very young and still is developing.
At some point, the bumps might not be so treacherous. But he’s not there yet.
Thumbnail photo via Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports Images
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