Red Sox taxi squad: Michael Chavis among 5 players traveling with team for first road trip of season

As the Red Sox prepare to begin their first road trip of the season, the club will be carrying five additional players with them as part of their taxi squad.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the five players that comprise Boston’s first taxi squad of the year are catcher Chris Herrmann, infielder Michael Chavis, outfielder Cesar Puello, and right-handers Colten Brewer and Ryan Weber.

These players, as Cotillo notes, “would be the first ones activated if someone on the 26-man active roster” gets hurt.

Per Major League Baseball’s health and safety protocols for the 2021 season, clubs are allowed to carry up to five taxi squad players for each road trip this season. One of these players must be a catcher, which is where Herrmann comes in.

Additionally, players on a club’s taxi squad are allowed to work out with the major-league team before games, but are not allowed to be in uniform or in the dugout during games.

When the Red Sox return to Boston after completing their seven-game road trip against the Orioles and Twins next Thursday, the likes of Herrmann, Chavis, Puello, Brewer, and Weber will all return to the team’s alternate training site in Worcester, which is where they were to begin the year.

(Picture of Michael Chavis: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox reinstate Eduardo Rodriguez from injured list ahead of left-hander’s season debut against Orioles

Before opening up a three-game series against the Orioles on Thursday, the Red Sox reinstated left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez from the 10-day injured list.

Rodriguez, who turned 28 on Wednesday, will make his 2021 debut in the first of three against Baltimore after starting the season on the injured list due to left elbow inflammation.

The Venezuelan southpaw originally had been slated to start for Boston on Opening Day, but was scratched from that start on account of dealing with “dead arm” during the late stages of spring training.

That bout with “dead arm” resulted in the Sox placing Rodriguez on the IL last week, but as expected, it was a short stint on the shelf for the lefty.

“He’s good to go,” Red Sox manager Cora said on Wednesday. “Looking forward to him to pitch tomorrow. He really wanted to pitch today because it’s his birthday. Good for him, but no. We’re very happy. He’ll be okay tomorrow. He’ll be ready to go.”

When Rodriguez takes the field at Camden Yards on Thursday afternoon, it will have been approximately 557 days since he last toed a big-league rubber. He missed the entirety of the shortened 2020 campaign after being diagnosed with myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) following a bout with COVID-19 last summer.

“It will mean a lot because of everything I went through last year,” Rodriguez told reporters Wednesday. “I just was happy to have the opportunity to be back in baseball and be back to start tomorrow.”

Rodriguez, who owns a lifetime 2.60 ERA in nine career starts at Camden Yards, will not be capped by a pitch or inning limit on Thursday, though the expectation is that Cora and Co. will take a conservative approach with him given the circumstances.

Regardless of that, it goes without saying that Rodriguez’s highly-anticipated season debut has been a long time coming. He will look to lead the Sox to their fourth consecutive victory on Thursday.

The reason the Red Sox were able to activate Rodriguez on Thursday without making a corresponding roster move is because the club optioned right-hander Tanner Houck to the alternate training site in Worcester on Tuesday night.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Red Sox option Tanner Houck to Worcester: Chaim Bloom says rookie right-hander ‘is a capable major-league starting pitcher right now, but that doesn’t mean he’s a finished product’

The Red Sox optioning rookie right-hander Tanner Houck to the alternate training site in Worcester on Wednesday did not come as much of a surprise.

With Eduardo Rodriguez set to make his season debut against the Orioles on Thursday, the Sox needed to open up a roster spot in order to activate the left-hander from the injured list.

Considering the fact that Houck has minor-league options and Boston’s starting rotation already consists of Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Nick Pivetta, and Martin Perez, optioning the young righty seemed like the most logical step to take so that Rodriguez could be slotted back into the rotation.

Since being called up by the Red Sox for the first time last September, Houck has posted a 1.17 ERA and 2.51 FIP over five outings (four starts) and 23 innings pitched. That includes his first start of the 2021 season against the Orioles over the weekend in which he gave up three runs (two earned) over five innings as well as a relief appearance in the 11th inning of Tuesday’s contest against the Rays in which he allowed one unearned run in one inning of work.

To say the 24-year-old out of Collinsville, Ill. has gotten his big-league career off to an impressive start would be an understatement, but the Sox still feel as though there are some things he can improve upon.

“Tanner pitched great, both in his start and his appearance out of the bullpen,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato on Wednesday. “Simply put, this is about depth. We’re fortunate to have five guys we feel are good and capable major league starters. Tanner, we feel, is a sixth. We want to keep them all starting and keep them all pitching.”

Bloom acknowledged that while Boston’s starting rotation is set for the time being, injuries are inevitable and having Houck available to come up from Worcester could prove to be extremely valuable.

While Houck will be limited to just throwing bullpen sessions and in simulated games at Polar Park for the time being before the minor-league season begins next month, one aspect of his game the Sox would like to see the former first-round pick build on is continuing to develop a third pitch.

That third pitch, a splitter, is one that is still relatively new to the 6-foot-5, 218 pound hurler. Of the 100 pitches the righty has thrown so far this season, only three have been splitters.

“I think Tanner Houck is a capable major league starting pitcher right now, but that doesn’t mean he’s a finished product,” Bloom told Mastrodonato. “We know his ceiling could be even higher if he gets really comfortable with a third pitch. We know he can get lefties out, executing the fastball and slider the way he has in his big league starts, but if he can get more comfortable with that splitter, he’ll be even better. While he’s in Worcester, it’ll be easier to work on that than it would be while he’s pitching in a close game at the big league level.”

To put it simply, Houck is still “a work in progress” in the Red Sox’ eyes.. The hope is that he will be able to make more developmental strides while at the alternate site before being called upon once again.

“Keep working on his craft, on his pitches,” Red Sox manager Alex said in regards to what Houck can do to improve in Worcester. “Keep throwing strikes. Keep developing his secondary pitches. And just be ready. That’s all he needs to do. Where we’re at right now, we knew that this was going to happen. You look at the guys that have pitched for us, they’ve done an amazing job. And the difference between this team and last year — and even 2019 — we’re a lot deeper.

“He was a professional when we talked to him,” Cora continued. “He understands. Whenever we need him, he’ll be here and he’ll perform.”

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi puts together ‘amazing’ performance against Rays on Wednesday to finish off three-game sweep; ‘We needed that,’ Alex Cora says

Of the four starts Nathan Eovaldi made for the Red Sox over the course of spring training, his outing against the Rays in Fort Myers was undoubtedly his worst one.

Over four innings of work back on March 19, the veteran right-hander surrendered five earned runs on eight hits, one walk, and five strikeouts.

It may have just been a meaningless Grapefruit League game, but the lessons Eovaldi learned from that performance last month proved to be worthwhile during his second start of the regular season on Wednesday.

Working against the Rays at Fenway Park this time around, the 31-year-old dazzled by yielding just one earned run on three hits and three walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon. He needed just 91 pitches (60 strikes) to get through those seven frames.

“[Kevin] Plawecki and I had a good game plan going into it,” Eovaldi said when asked about his impressive showing against his former team on Wednesday. “We were able to follow up with everything, try to keep them off balance. In spring training, I learned a lot when they got to me early in the game. So I had to really mix my pitches today, and I was able to do that.”

Of the 91 pitches Eovaldi threw on Wednesday, 35 were four-seam fastballs, 20 were curveballs, 19 were sliders, nine were cutters, and eight were splitters. He induced 17 swings-and-misses from Rays hitters in total.

“I didn’t really have one pitch that wasn’t working,” added Eovaldi. “I was able to use the curveball, the slider — I used that a lot today, the cutter, splitty was good. I was able to locate the fastball. I made some mechanical adjustments the other day and they really helped me out. So I feel really good out there.”

With the Red Sox finishing off a three-game sweep of the Rays on Wednesday, Eovaldi was able to pick up his first winning decision and improve to 1-1 on the young season.

That Eovaldi was able to go seven innings in his second start of the year proved to be crucial for the Sox considering how spent their bullpen was following Tuesday night’s 6-5 win over Tampa Bay that took 12 innings to complete.

“We needed that,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “The fact that he only threw 91 pitches, it was very important. But he went seven. Where we were pitching-wise today, we needed a big performance from him, and he did.”

Eovaldi himself echoes this same sort of sentiment in regards to picking up a depleted pitching staff the day after a lengthy game.

“The way we started the season 0-3 against the Orioles, obviously we’re not happy with that,” Eovaldi said. “But then to come in, last night was a huge game for us. We were able to come back from behind, tie it up in the late innings, ultimately win the game. Both sides of the bullpen, we were down. So we were short on guys.

“For me to be able to come out there today, go a little deeper in the game for us, and then for us to come out on top today, have the sweep — especially against the Rays — it’s a big one for us,” he added. “Big series win.”

Through his first two starts of the year, the Houston-area native has allowed just two earned runs over his first 12 1/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 1.46 as well as a 0.89 WHIP.

“He was amazing,” Cora said of Eovaldi. “He’s got two starts already. He’s done an amazing job mixing up pitches, throwing strikes. The fact he only made like 92 [pitches] in the first one, [91 pitches] today. Now he gets one more day in between starts. That’s really good for him.”

Eovaldi is slated to pitch again against the Twins in Minnesota next Tuesday.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi hurls 7 strong innings, Christian Vazquez crushes another homer as Red Sox complete sweep of Rays with 9-2 win in series finale

The Red Sox had nowhere to go but up after getting swept by the Orioles over the weekend, and up they went in the process of completing a three-game sweep of the Rays with a commanding 9-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

Eovaldi tosses seven solid frames

Nathan Eovaldi led the way in his second start of the season, tossing seven innings of one-run ball while scattering just three hits and three walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon.

After giving up that one run on an RBI single in the third, the veteran right-hander retired 11 of the final 15 hitters he faced from the fourth inning on.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 91 (60 strikes), Eovaldi relied on his four-seam fastball 38% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing eight swings-and-misses while topping out at 99 mph with the pitch.

Ultimately picking up his first winning winning decision of the season, the 31-year-old hurler was named the YouTube Player of the Game for his efforts. His next start should come against the Twins in Minnesota next week.

In relief of Eovaldi, left-hander Josh Taylor wrapped things up by allowing one run over the final two innings of Wednesday’s contest to preserve the 9-2 win for his side.

Martinez, Bogaerts, Vazquez lead the way offensively

A Yoshi Tsutsugo RBI single gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead in the third inning, but the Boston bats responded with three runs of their own an inning later.

Xander Bogaerts knotted things up at one by driving in Rafael Devers on a line-drive, run-scoring single to center field off Rays left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, then Christian Vazquez took things into his own hands a few moments later.

Starting at designated hitter after catching all 12 innings on Tuesday, Vazquez crushed his second home run of the season — and second in as many days — off a 2-1, 83 mph cutter from Yarbrough at the top of the strike zone.

Vazquez’s 376-foot blast over the Green Monster gave the Sox a 3-1 advantage.

Aided by a two-run double from a red-hot J.D. Martinez, Bogaerts, Vazquez, Hunter Renfroe, and Christian Vazquez combined to tack on four additional insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth with some help from some sloppy fielding from the Rays.

By the time Arroyo drove in Renfroe on an RBI double to shallow right field, the Red Sox had jumped out to a 9-2 lead, which would be more than enough to secure a 9-2, series-sweeping win on Wednesday.

Next up: First road trip of the season

After salvaging their first homestand of the year to improve to 3-3 through their first six games, the Red Sox will head to Baltimore for the first leg of a two-city, seven-game road trip.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will be making his first start of the season in Thursday’s opener against the Orioles, and he will be matched up against veteran right-hander Matt Harvey.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox option rookie right-hander Tanner Houck to alternate training site

The Red Sox have optioned rookie right-hander Tanner Houck to their alternate training site in Worcester, the team announced prior to Wednesday’s game against the Rays.

The move to option Houck comes as no surprise with Eduardo Rodriguez slated to be activated from the injured list and make his first start of the season against the Orioles on Thursday.

Houck, who turns 25 in June, was initially slated to open the year at the Sox’ alternate training site out of spring training, but Rodriguez being placed on the IL due to elbow inflammation led to the righty breaking camp as the team’s No. 2 starter.

In his first start of the season, which came against Baltimore this past Saturday, Houck yielded three runs — two of which were earned — on six hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts over five innings of work.

He also allowed one unearned run while working the 11th inning of Tuesday’s 6-5, extra-innings win over Tampa Bay.

Since making his major-league debut last September, the former first-round draft pick has posted a 1.17 ERA, a 2.51 FIP, and a 31:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in five outings (four starts) spanning 23 innings pitched for the Sox.

Despite the success Houck has been enjoying at the big-league level thus far, the Red Sox still feel like the 6-foot-5, 218 pound hurler has some work to do in regards to his development. A prime example of this would be to continue working on his third pitch: a splitter.

“It all depends on what you mean check all the boxes,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters Tuesday (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) in regards to why Houck was going to be sent down. “You can be successful here but that doesn’t mean you have checked all your boxes from our end. And you can keep getting better.”

Another reason why the Sox are sending down Houck is because of the starters they already have on their roster.

With Rodriguez set to make his return to the mound on Thursday, Boston’s starting rotation will consist of Nathan Eovaldi, Rodriguez, Garrett Richards, Nick Pivetta, and Martin Perez.

Because Cora and Co. are not currently considering the use of a six-man rotation, Houck becomes the odd man out and will instead serve as rotation depth in Worcester.

Per Cotillo, “the expectation is that Houck will come up and start games later in the year if one of the veteran starters is injured or struggles.”

Until then, he will be limited to simulated games and bullpen sessions at the alternate site at Polar Park before the Worcester Red Sox begin their season in May.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By taking series from Rays, Red Sox take step forward

Even after getting swept by the Orioles at Fenway Park to kick off the 2021 season over the weekend, the Red Sox did not waver.

Since falling to Baltimore by a final score 11-3 on Sunday, Boston welcomed the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays into town and routed them 11-2 on Monday.

On Tuesday, the Sox showed resiliency and staged three separate comebacks en route to pulling off a 6-5 walk-off win over the Rays in 12 innings on the back of J.D. Martinez’s game-winning two-run double.

In the span of just a few short days, the Red Sox have gone from getting dismantled by the team that projects to be the worst in their division to taking a three-game series from the defending American League champs.

This is the first time the Sox have won a home series against the Rays since August 2018.

“We did a good job. We didn’t stop playing,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of his team’s come-from-behind victory Tuesday night. “That’s the mark of a good team. We didn’t look great at one point, but we kept fighting and we kept them within distance. The pitching staff did an amazing job. We made some plays.

“We won the series,” he continued. “We won the series against the defending American League champions. It’s a good bounce-back from what happened this weekend and we have the chance to sweep them tomorrow.”

Martinez, who went 2-for-6 at the plate with three RBI on Tuesday, has been one of the catalysts behind the Sox’ recent two-game winning streak.

The 33-year-old slugger raised his OPS on the season to 1.522 following Tuesday’s showing, and he — like Cora — understands that having the chance to sweep a team like the Rays could prove to be quite beneficial in the long-run.

“Tampa Bay’s a really good team, so to take a series from them is big,” Martinez said. “But, we’re not looking at these two games. We need to go back out tomorrow and win tomorrow.”

At 2-3, the Sox still have a ways to go to reach the level of success they believe they can attain this year, but Tuesday’s performance against the Rays has the makings to be a step in the right direction towards achieving those goals.

“It was overall a great game,” Cora said. “And I think the most important thing out of this is that we won the series against the American League defending champions.”

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez comes through with walk-off double as Red Sox top Rays, 6-5, in 12 innings for first series win of season

In the span of four innings, J.D. Martinez went from zero to hero for the Red Sox in their contest against the Rays at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.

After committing a costly baserunning blunder while representing the tying run in the bottom half of the eighth, the 33-year-old slugger had the chance to redeem himself later on well into extra innings.

With two outs and two runners on in a 5-4 game in the 12th, Martinez — matched up against Rays reliever Ryan Thompson — drilled a flyball over the head of an outstretched Randy Arozarena in right field plenty deep enough to plate both Hunter Renfroe and Alex Verdugo to give the Sox their first walk-off victory of the season with a 6-5 win.

Martinez, who finished the day 2-for-6 with three RBI, stays hot and is now slashing .476/.522/1.000 through his first five games of the year.

Martin Perez tosses five-plus solid frames

Well before Tuesday’s late-night drama, Martin Perez made his first start of the new campaign.

Working five-plus innings, the veteran left-hander surrendered three runs — all of which were earned — on five hits, two walks, and one hit batsman to go along with six strikeouts. The second walk he gave up came with no outs in the top half of the sixth, and it marked the end of his outing.

Of the 92 pitches Perez threw on Tuesday, 52 went for strikes. The Venezuelan hurler also mixed in 29 cutters, 21 changeups, 19 sinkers, 15 curveballs, and eight fastballs on his way to picking up the no-decision. His next start should come against the Twins sometime next week.

Matt Barnes dazzles with two perfect innings of relief

After Austin Brice, Hirokazu Sawamura, and Darwinzon Hernandez managed to keep Tampa Bay off the scoreboard through the end of the eighth inning, Matt Barnes was called in for the ninth as he was tasked with holding the Rays at three runs.

Making just his second relief appearance of the year, the flame-throwing righty did exactly that by retiring the side in order in the ninth and then doing the same in the 10th after the Sox had knotted things up.

In total, Barnes struck out four of the six batters he faced and induced six swings-and-misses in the process of doing so.

Tanner Houck, Phillips Valdez close things out

Red Sox manager Alex Cora had said before Tuesday’s game that rookie right-hander Tanner Houck would be available to pitch out of the bullpen against the Rays.

Having just thrown 85 pitches in his start against the Orioles over the weekend, it seemed unlikely that the 24-year-old would be used in this one, but he was after all.

With a runner on second base to start each extra inning, Houck wound up surrendering the go-ahead run to the very first hitter he faced in Willy Adames, who ripped an RBI double down the left field line to give his side a 4-3 edge.

Houck did manage to escape the top half of the 11th without giving anything else up, though fellow righty Phillips Valdez fell victim to the unearned run himself an inning later.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to yield five runs (three earned) on eight hits, five walks, and 13 strikeouts on Tuesday night.

Christian Vazquez comes through in the clutch

Before Martinez’s late-inning heroics, the Boston bats were finding it difficult to score runs just one night after plating 11 in their first win of the season.

Facing off against vaunted Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the only run the Sox managed to bring across over the first seven innings came when Christian Arroyo scored from third on a wild pitch.

Martinez tacked on the first of his three RBI with a run-scoring double in the eighth off Pete Fairbanks in the eighth, then it was Christian Vazquez’s time to shine in the ninth.

Going into his fourth plate appearance of the night without a hit, Vazquez did not waste any time in greeting new Rays reliever Diego Castillo, as he led the bottom of the ninth off by crushing a solo shot 383 feet well over the Green Monster for his first big fly of the season.

That moonshot would pull the Red Sox back even with the Rays at three runs apiece, and it would ultimately set up the Martinez walk-off later on in the 12th.

Franchy Cordero makes leaping grab in left field

One key moment that cannot be lost in the shuffle of Tuesday’s drama was the play Franchy Cordero made to end the top half of the seventh inning.

With one out in the frame and runners on first and second, Rays centerfielder Manuel Margot lifted a flyball to left that was on the cusp of bouncing off the Monster before a leaping Franchy Cordero robbed the former Red Sox prospect of extra-bases.

There was some confusion as to whether Cordero caught the ball or trapped it against the left field wall, and that confusion allowed the outfielder to double off one of the runners — Arozarena — at second base to end the inning.

The Rays disputed the call on the field by challenging it, but it was upheld by replay review.

Next up: Eovaldi vs. Yarbrough

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the finale of this three-game series on Wednesday afternoon, so it’s certainly a quick turnaround.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is slated to get the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by left-hander Ryan Yarbrough for Tampa Bay.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on YouTube. Yes, you read that correctly. YouTube.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora on team’s new City Connect uniforms: ‘Hopefully it’s the beginning of something cool’

In case you missed it, the Red Sox unveiled new ‘Nike City Connect’ uniforms on Tuesday that the team will wear on Patriots’ Day weekend later this month.

The new uniform, which was inspired by the Boston Marathon, “adopts colors that honor the spirit of Patriots’ Day weekend, and features ‘Boston’ in a stencil font across the chest paying tribute to the Boylston Street finish line. The numbers ‘617’ are highlighted on the left sleeve as a nod to the area code for Boston and Fenway Park. The numbers appear within a racing bib, honoring one of the city’s most iconic annual sports traditions.”

These new, special edition threads have been the talk of the town since they were revealed, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora is among those who are in favor of them, citing that they could help boost Major League Baseball’s popularity.

“You look around the other leagues, and they’re proactive, right? And they’re marketing not only the teams, but their players,” Cora said during his pregame media availability Tuesday. “If you look at the NBA, it seems like once every day, you’ve got a different uniform. So I’m all for it.”

Nike, which took over as MLB’s official uniform provider last season, has been doing the same for the NBA since 2017.

Upon becoming the official uniform and apparel provider for the NBA and its 30 franchises, Nike began rolling out ‘City Edition’ uniforms for teams that serve the purpose of being “windows into a city’s culture,” per the company’s vice president of North America league partnerships Sonja Henning.

The Boston Celtics, for instance, have worn four different ‘City Edition’ uniforms over the last four seasons, with each uniform encapsulating the spirit of the Celtics and/or the city of Boston to some degree.

And not that it all has to do with the uniforms their players are wearing, but the NBA has proven to be a more effective marketer of its product and players than Major League Baseball has in recent years. This is something Cora would like to see MLB improve upon.

“I think this league has been lacking pushing their players out there and marketing them,” said the Sox skipper. “We have some good ones right now, and we have some good ones here in our city. For them to use a different uniform, hopefully it’s the beginning of something cool. And people can recognize these guys — not because of the uniform — but just because of who they are. I think this is a great idea and I’m looking forward for that weekend to wear those two uniforms.”

The Red Sox will be the first of seven clubs to don City Connect uniforms this season, with the Diamondbacks, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, Marlins, and Giants joining in at different points throughout the year.

Boston will wear the uniforms on April 17 and 18 for two games against the White Sox, then go with the traditional white “B Strong” jerseys on Patriots’ Day Monday, as they have every year since 2013.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Nike)

Eduardo Rodriguez to make season debut against Orioles on Thursday, Alex Cora says

Eduardo Rodriguez will make his season debut for the Red Sox in their series-opening contest against the Orioles in Baltimore on Thursday, manager Alex Cora announced Tuesday.

Rodriguez, who experienced “dead arm” during the late stages of spring training, began the 2021 campaign on the 10-day injured list due to left elbow inflammation.

The left-hander most recently threw a bullpen session on Monday, and the results of that bullpen session surely played a role in the decision to activate him in the coming days.

“Eduardo feels good,” Cora said via Zoom. “He’s going to join us in Baltimore. He’s going to start the first game in Baltimore. We feel good about him. He threw a good bullpen yesterday, so that’s where we’re at. He’s slated to pitch on Thursday.

Rodriguez, who turns 28 on Wednesday, was initially slated to be Boston’s Opening Day starter, but he was scratched — and later shelved — from that start because of the aforementioned dead arm.

The Sox placed the Venezuelan hurler on the injured list on April 1, but backdated the beginning of the stint to March 29, which now allows Rodriguez to be activated from the IL this coming Thursday.

Having last pitched in a competitive game on March 22, one might expect the Red Sox to ease Rodriguez into things in regards to a pitch or innings limit in his first start of the season later this week, but Cora indicated that will not be the case.

“We’ll take care of him,” the Sox skipper said. “But, there’s not like a hard number that we have. We do believe that he’s ready to go — go deep into the game. So that’s the most important thing. If it was something that it was going to be short, like he wasn’t ready to go five or six [innings], we would probably think about the decision. But we do believe that he can go deep into the game.”

While Rodriguez was sidelined to begin the season, rookie right-hander Tanner Houck started in the lefty’s place against the Orioles on Saturday.

Over five innings of work in that contest, Houck yielded three runs — two of which were earned — on six hits and one walk to go along with eight strikeouts.

It was yet another solid performance for the 24-year-old, who now owns an ERA of 1.23 through his first four big-league starts. But it would appear that he will be headed back down to the alternate training site in Worcester in spite of that.

“You can be successful here but it doesn’t mean you’ve checked all the boxes from our end, and you can keep getting better” Cora said of Houck. “We haven’t made a decision yet, so we’ll wait.”

Between now and and the time Rodriguez is presumably activated from the injured list before Thursday’s game against Baltimore, Houck will move to the bullpen and will be available to pitch in relief in Tuesday night’s contest against the Rays at Fenway Park.

As MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith put it, though, “don’t expect the Red Sox to use Houck as a reliever for any extended period of time. The Red Sox want him to remain a starter and keep working on the development of his splitter.”

Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush said as much when discussing Houck’s development as a starter back in February.

“The split was new for him last year so he was relatively inexperienced with it,” Bush told reporters at the time. “He didn’t use it a whole lot in the big leagues. He’s going to have to. If he’s going to be a consistent big-league starter over time, he’s going to need a quality third pitch. He knows that and that’s probably been on the top of the list.

“Continuing to work on that to the point where he feels comfortable and confident attacking the zone with it and throwing it whenever he needs to,” continued Bush. “Also, generally, pitch command. Something he has worked on all through the minors is just throwing more strikes, being more consistent in the zone and being able to work ahead in the count so he can use his slider and his other off-speed pitches to get guys out.”

In Saturday’s start against the Orioles, 54 of the 85 pitches Houck threw went for strikes. Of those 85 pitches, 32 were sliders, 32 were four-seam fastballs, 18 were sinkers, and three were splitters.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)