The Red Sox have tabbed Eduardo Rodriguez to start Game 1 of the American Division series against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Thursday night.
Rodriguez will start opposite a fellow southpaw in the form of Rays rookie Shane McClanahan, as first pitch Thursday is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. eastern time on FS1.
Over the course of the season, Rodriguez certainly experienced his fair share of ups and downs after missing all of year due to myocarditis (inflammation of the heart of muscle) that came as a result of a bout with COVID-19.
In 32 outings (31 starts) this year, the 28-year-old left-hander posted a 4.74 ERA over 157 2/3 innings of work, though he put up a much more respectable 3.32 FIP in that same time frame.
On top of that, Rodriguez ended his regular season on a high-note by pitching to the tune of a 3.26 ERA and 3.07 FIP over his final 12 appearances (11 starts) and 58 innings pitched from August 4 on.
While matched up against the Rays at Tropicana Field on two separate occasions this season, Rodriguez allowed a total of five runs (three earned) on 11 hits, two walks, and 13 strikeouts over 12 innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 2.25 — as well as an OPS against of .625.
When asked on Wednesday why he decided to give the ball to Rodriguez for the opening contest of a pivotal best-of-five series against a division rival on the road, Red Sox manager Alex Cora offered a simple explanation.
“He has been throwing the ball well,” Cora said. “We think it’s a good matchup. Obviously with them you have to mix and match. They’re going to look for an advantage and all that. We’ll have Nick [Pivetta] in the bullpen tomorrow, and we’ll do what we do.”
Cora went on to say that the Sox still have plenty of decisions to make by the time rosters are due on Thursday, but he also emphasized how the team trusts in Rodriguez given the lefty’s past success in St. Petersburg.
“We feel Eddie has been there, done that,” said Cora. “He threw the ball well here before just like others on our pitching staff, so we feel very comfortable with him.”
Rodriguez will be making just his second career postseason start on Thursday night, representing another important milestone as he looks to build on what has already been a rejuvenating 2021 campaign.
“I’m very proud of him,” Cora said. “First thing is first, last year was a very difficult year for him not being able to play because of health issues. And the fact that he will be the starter tomorrow, I know it means a lot to him and his family. You know, his support system has been amazing throughout, and we are very proud of him.
“I mean, what he has done this season, regardless of the up and downs, he didn’t throw the ball extremely well at one point,” added Cora. “But he has been very consistent throughout. And he has been making adjustments every start and, you know, he has been getting better and better.”
As for who will follow Rodriguez and start for Boston in Game 2 of the ALDS, Cora has yet to make anything official, though he did say that “there’s a good chance” that responsibility will fall to Chris Sale.
(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)