A la Michael Jordan announcing his return to the NBA in 1995, Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez announced his return to baseball on Saturday with two simple words: “I’m back.”
Albeit Rodriguez announced his return via Twitter rather than a press release and was not coming out of retirement but rather a bout with coronavirus, it was still encouraging to see that the 27-year-old is indeed back in Boston and will report to Summer Camp at Fenway Park on Saturday.
Per Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke, the plan for Rodriguez, as well as fellow left-hander Josh Taylor, is to simply “just play catch” Saturday while also “try[ing] to slowly get them back into where they need to be and to evaluate where they are.”
Rodriguez and Taylor were two of four Sox players who, at least publicly, tested positive for COVID-19, with Bobby Dalbec and Darwinzon Hernandez being the other two.
Dalbec was cleared to return to baseball activities last weekend, but it’s been a different story for the trio of southpaws as they were all placed on the 10-day injured list this past Tuesday.
That being said, all three have in Boston for at least the last 24-48 hours, with Hernandez flying in from Venezuela on Thursday night and Rodriguez flying in from Miami on Friday all while Taylor has been self-isolating in a hotel in the city.
Because Taylor was stuck in a hotel room while Hernandez and Rodriguez could at least throw at their respective homes, Roenicke has some concerns about where the lefty reliever stands in terms of being prepared for the upcoming season.
“I’m a little bit more concerned about him because he was stuck in that hotel room and not throwing at all other than maybe throwing into a pillow or a mattress or whatever he’s doing,” Roenicke said of Taylor via Zoom. “So we really need to keep our eyes on him and make sure he’s ready when we activate him.”
As for Rodriguez, the Venezuela native was originally supposed to be Boston’s Opening Day starter, but that responsibility has since been handed over to Nathan Eovaldi now that Rodriguez will begin the season on the IL. That does not necessarily mean that the 19-game winner from a year ago will miss too much time though, according to Roenicke.
“When [Rodriguez is] ready, when he starts throwing his bullpens — he’ll do some up and down bullpens — and when (pitching coach) Dave (Bush) thinks he’s ready we’ll start doing the simulated games and the live BPs,” said the Sox skipper. “Doesn’t mean he has to get his pitch count up to 85 or anything. If he’s feeling good and we think we can do this in-season, maybe he throws four innings (in a real game) and we think his four innings are going to be better than somebody else’s.”
Because of how “unsettled” their starting rotation is, as chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom put it, Rodriguez would certainly be a welcome addition to the Sox’ pitching staff whenever he is ready to return to game action.