Eduardo Rodriguez’s future looks very, very bright, but he might not be shining through the end of the 2015 season.
Before you panic: Rodriguez is healthy and well, as far as we know. But that’s just the thing — the Boston Red Sox want to keep it that way. Given the major contributions the 22-year-old rookie already has made this season, he’s likely a lock to be in Boston’s rotation for the foreseeable future. To ensure that, the team will keep a careful eye on Rodriguez’s pitch and inning counts.
“We’ve looked into it, really just scratching the surface, looking at his innings, looking at the schedule going forward to kind of be prepared when that time starts to present itself,” Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis told WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “Knowing how to manage it, whether it be moving him back in the rotation, or utilizing off days.
“Obviously how we’re playing as a club factors in, but the most important (part) of the equation is Eddie and keeping him going through the end of the season, wanting him to pitch through to the end. Collectively John (Farrell), myself, Ben (Cherington), we’ll look at that. But his best interest takes precedence.”
Rodriguez was the obvious choice to kick off Boston’s second-half campaign on Friday, but instead will start Sunday. He’s pitched 100 2/3 innings already this season between Boston and Pawtucket, and his previous single-season innings high came last season when he threw 145 frames in the minors. Boston probably doesn’t want him pitching much more than that — say 165 innings, roughly — to preserve his arm. With somewhere between 12 and 15 starts left (if Rodriguez pitches every five games), he’d easily cross that threshold and push 180-200 innings if nothing changes.
In other words, moving Rodriguez back a few days to Sunday — instead of Friday — helps Boston stretch out E-Rod’s starts. It’s not unprecedented, either. Bradford points out the most obvious case, citing how the Washington Nationals handled Stephen Strasburg in 2012. Strasburg, then 23, made the All-Star team after going 12-5 with a 2.82 ERA in 17 starts before the break.
He ended up starting 28 games for Washington before being shut down in mid-September with a 15-6 record in 159 1/3 innings. Even amidst terrific outings, he often was pulled after six innings. In those 28 starts, Strasburg only threw seven full innings five times. The Nationals finished 98-64 but advanced to the postseason without their best pitcher, eventually losing in the NLDS.
Rodriguez has made nine starts in the big leagues, and only has gone seven innings or more twice since joining the Red Sox’s rotation.
“It’s a little different here because hopefully we play beyond September, so that becomes a factor too,” Willis told Bradford. “But he’s going to be a part in getting us there, as well. So there’s a lot of weighing things. But I do think we can’t put that ahead of what’s best for him because of the potential he has to be a front of the rotation guy. You try to manage it as early as you can so you allow yourself some wiggle room as you get deeper into the season. That’s what we’ll look at.”
Boston isn’t poised to make the playoffs like Washington was that year, but they aren’t out of contention, either. If the team falters down the stretch, how the Red Sox handle Rodriguez could become an easier decision. But for now, an extra day off here or a few less pitches there only helps Rodriguez’s development.
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