Red Sox shut down right-hander Tanner Houck due to sore flexor muscle

The Red Sox have shut down right-hander Tanner Houck due to a sore flexor muscle, manager Alex Cora announced Sunday morning.

Per Cora, Houck first felt discomfort during his last start for Triple-A Worcester, which was also the WooSox’ first game of the season in Trenton on May 4.

Houck lasted just three innings in his first start for Worcester this past Tuesday, allowing three runs on eight hits, no walks, and four strikeouts on 69 pitches (45 strikes).

The 24-year-old came in the following day experiencing soreness in his flexor muscle, which resulted in him being shut down.

“We’re not overly concerned,” Cora said. “This happened in his last start. The next day, he came in sore. He’s actually feeling better right now. But of course, we’re going to shut him down.”

Houck, who turns 25 next month, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 3 pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system.

The former first-round draft pick made his major-league debut for the Sox last September and has posted a 1.98 ERA over six outings (five starts) since then.

This year alone, Houck has allowed seven runs (five earned) on 14 hits, one walk, and 12 strikeouts in three appearances (two starts) spanning 10 1/3 total innings of work.

While the Red Sox do not seem too concerned about Houck’s status moving forward, the fact that he has been shut down now means that the club is without their top two rotation depth options at the minor-league level for the time being.

That being the case because in addition to Houck being shut down, fellow right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold was placed on the injured list last Monday with right elbow inflammation.

The Sox did not seem too worried that Seabold would miss a significant amount of time, either, but his absence becomes more significant since Houck has been sidelined as well.

On top of those two, Bryan Mata, the organization’s top pitching prospect, underwent Tommy John surgery last month. So it goes without saying that Boston’s starting rotation depth has taken somewhat of a hit these past few weeks.

Still, as previously mentioned, the Red Sox seem optimistic that in Houck’s case, the righty will not be shut down for long.

“There’s no timetable, but this is something that we feel is going to be short-term,” said Cora. “It’s not something that we are overly concerned, but that’s where we’re at right now.”

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Tanner Houck to start for Red Sox in Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader against White Sox

Rookie right-hander Tanner Houck will return to the Red Sox’ starting rotation for Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader against the White Sox, manager Alex Cora told reporters following his team’s 7-4 victory over the White Sox on Saturday. Left-hander Martin Perez will start Game 2.

Houck, who is currently at the alternate training site, will more than likely serve as the 27th man on the Sox’ roster for Sunday’s twin bill, meaning he can simply be returned to Worcester after Game 2 with no corresponding roster move needed to be made.

The 24-year-old initially made Boston’s Opening Day roster earlier this month after left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez required a brief stint on the injured list due to elbow inflammation.

Pitching in Rodriguez’s place against the Orioles on April 3, Houck impressed by yielding just three runs (two earned) on six hits and one walk to go along with eight strikeouts over five solid innings of work.

He also allowed one unearned run on one hit and two strikeouts while pitching out of the bullpen in the 11th inning of a game against the Rays three days later.

Since making his big-league debut last September, the former first-round draft pick has posted a 1.17 ERA, a 2.48 FIP, and a 31:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio over five outings — four of which were starts — and 23 total innings pitched.

Despite the success he has enjoyed in the majors to this point, Houck has yet to earn a spot in the Sox’ starting rotation on a regular basis. One thing the team wanted to see him continue to work on in Worcester was the development of his third pitch: a splitter.

“I think Tanner Houck is a capable major league starting pitcher right now, but that doesn’t mean he’s a finished product,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Bloom told The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato after Houck was first optioned to the alternate site on April 6. “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.”

Houck will get the opportunity to show what he has been working on at Polar Park when he makes his return to Fenway Park on Sunday.

And even if he is optioned back down to the alternate site afterwards, the expectation is that the 6-foot-5, 218 pound hurler will be back once again sooner rather than later in the event that the Red Sox need a starter for whatever reason.

“He understands,” Cora said of Houck back on April 7. “Whenever we need him, he’ll be here and he’ll perform.”

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

Red Sox set starting rotation for Patriots’ Day weekend series against White Sox

Even after Friday’s game was postponed due to “winter-like conditions” in Boston, the Red Sox still (kind of) set their starting rotation for their Patriots’ Day weekend series against the White Sox at Fenway Park.

Coming off a week in which they used four starters in the span of three days in Minnesota, the Red Sox pitching staff — and Alex Cora — will once again be put to the test beginning on Saturday for the first of four against the South Siders.

Game 1 (Saturday)

In Game 1 of the series on Saturday, it will be right-hander Nick Pivetta making his third start of the season for Boston. He will be opposed by fellow righty Dylan Cease for Chicago.

The Red Sox have yet to lose a game Pivetta has started since the 28-year-old was called up from the alternate training site last September.

This season alone, Pivetta boasts a 2-0 record and 3.27 through his first two turns through Boston’s rotation, though he has also walked seven and struck out 11 over 11 total innings of work thus far.

Pivetta will be making his first career start against the White Sox come Saturday afternoon. The former Phillies hurler has made two career relief appearances against Chicago and has allowed one unearned run over three total innings pitched in those outings.

Cease, meanwhile, was reinstated from the COVID-19 related injured list on Friday after just a two-day absence.

The 25-year-old out of Georgia has only gone 4 2/3 innings deep in each of his first two starts of the season, yielding a total of four runs on nine hits, six walks, and nine strikeouts in the process of doing so. He will be making his first career start against the Red Sox on Saturday.

Games 2 & 3 (Sunday)

Things start to get a little complicated for Sunday’s split doubleheader. Game 1 of the twin bill will start at 1:10 p.m. eastern time as it was scheduled to, while Game 2 — the makeup of Friday’s postponed contest — will start at approximately 5:10 p.m. ET. Both games will be seven innings long.

Left-hander Martin Perez is slated to get the starting nod in Game 2 for the Red Sox, and fellow lefty Dallas Keuchel will be starting one of the two games for the White Sox, though which game will be his has yet to be determined.

Outside of that, the expectation seems to be that Tanner Houck will be recalled from the alternate training site in Worcester to make his second start of the season on Sunday afternoon.

The rookie right-hander thoroughly impressed in his first start of the year back on April 3, striking out eight Orioles over five solid innings in which he gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits and one walk. He also was charged with an unearned run while pitching in relief in the 11th inning of an April 6 game against the Rays.

Houck, who turns 25 in June, was optioned to the alternate site last Tuesday, which — as noted by the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier — would mean the soonest he could be called up again would be this Saturday.

Had Friday’s game against the White Sox gone on as planned, that likely would have been the case since the Red Sox would have needed a starter for Saturday. But with Friday’s contest being pushed back to Sunday, and Sunday becoming a doubleheader day as a result, Boston can just recall Houck as the 27th man for the twin bill and send him back down to the alternate site at the conclusion of the second game.

Game 4 (Monday)

Monday is Patriots’ Day, meaning first pitch for the Red Sox’ series finale against the White Sox is scheduled for 11:10 a.m. eastern time.

Nathan Eovaldi will be getting the ball for Boston to close out the four-game set, and he will be matched up against a talented opponent in right-hander Lucas Giolito for Chicago.

Eovaldi, who joined teammate Chris Sale in getting some work in at snowy Fenway Park on Friday, has been solid through his first three starts of the 2021 campaign.

Coming into the weekend, the 31-year-old righty carries with him a 2.08 ERA and .503 OPS against as he is fresh off tossing five innings of two-run ball against the Twins on Wednesday.

For his career, Eovaldi has made just three appearances (two starts) against the White Sox. In those three outings, the Houston-area native has posted a 5.59 ERA over 9 2/3 total innings pitched.

Giolito, meanwhile, is just a few days removed from his best start of the young season to this point.

The 26-year-old, who finished in the top-seven in American League Cy Young voting in each of the last two seasons, put together seven shutout frames against the Indians while scattering all of three hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts in a game his side somehow lost.

Giolito, a product of the baseball factory that is Harvard-Westlake High School, has made just one prior start at Fenway Park.

In that one start, which came back on June 24, 2019, the Southern California native surrendered three runs on six hits, four walks, and seven strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings pitched.

(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Adam Glanzman/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)

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)

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)

Red Sox recall Tanner Houck from alternate training site; right-hander will start against Orioles on Saturday; ‘He’s in a good position now to come here and contribute,’ Alex Cora says

Throughout the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the Red Sox did not have the starting rotation depth they have now as they prepare to embark upon the 2021 campaign.

That much was made clear when upon placing left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez on the 10-day injured list due to left elbow inflammation on Thursday, the club recalled right-hander Tanner Houck from its alternate training site.

Houck, currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 8 prospect in Boston’s farm system, had an up-and-down spring for the Sox, posting a 5.04 ERA over four outings — two of which were starts — and 10 2/3 innings pitched in Grapefruit League play.

The 24-year-old hurler had come into big-league camp vying for a spot in the Red Sox’ Opening Day starting rotation after impressing in a brief cameo (0.53 ERA in three starts) with the club last September.

“I still remember him pitching last year and reading about how he’s supposed to be on the Opening Day roster next year, and he was going to help us — or that point them — out to be better,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Houck on Thursday. “Well, you know what? He was going to start the year in Triple-A. And right away, we need a guy, and it’s Tanner Houck. So, I think that’s a lot better than what happened in ’19 and obviously what happened in ’20.”

Houck’s best outing of the spring was actually his very last one, and his first after being optioned to the alternate site nearly two weeks prior.

Working against the Braves in North Port on March 29, the 6-foot-5, 230 pound righty tossed 4 1/3 scoreless frames while scattering just two hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts on the afternoon.

“Just watching him pitch the last one, him knowing the situation, you could tell he breathed,” Cora said. “It felt like, early in camp he was trying to impress someone. I told him before it started, ‘You just go out there and pitch.’ But the velocity was way up, he was out of his delivery. We haven’t talked about it, but he felt like he was off.

“The last one, he was under control, just throwing his sinker, and his four-seamer up, and the slider,” added Cora. “That was a good lineup, too. And there were some bad swings. But I think the comfort level — and it’s not that he was uncomfortable early on — but he was trying to do more, and that’s part of the learning process.”

Houck may have not been in Boston’s original starting rotation plans as of two weeks ago, but circumstances change and the former first-round draft pick is now scheduled to make his first start of the season against the Orioles at Fenway Park on Saturday.

Upon getting called up for the first time last year, Houck was unable to have any of his family in the stands to watch him pitch on account of COVID-19 protocols. That will change this weekend, as a few of the former Missouri Tiger’s relatives will be on hand to watch him pitch in-person for the first time in quite a while.

“He’s going to be excited on Saturday because he’s going to pitch in front of his family for the first time as a big-leaguer,” said Cora. “But I think he’s in a good position now to come here and contribute.”

Houck will be matched up against Orioles right-hander Matt Harvey on Saturday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

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

Red Sox place Eduardo Rodriguez on injured list; Alex Cora hopeful left-hander will be able to rejoin team ‘sooner rather than later. And sooner is like next week’

To nobody’s surprise, the Red Sox placed left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez on the 10-day injured list on Thursday due to left elbow inflammation.

The soon-to-be 28-year-old hurler was originally slated to start on Opening Day for the Sox in their first game of the year against the Orioles, but was scratched from said start after suffering a “dead arm” in the last week of spring training.

Now that he has been placed on the injured list — which was actually backdated to March 29 — the hope is that Rodriguez will be be able to return to the mound in the very near future.

“Him going on the IL is nothing long-term,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said about Rodriguez earlier Thursday. “It’s just [that] we ran out of time to build him up. The hope is for him to rejoin us sooner rather than later. And sooner is like next week.”

Rodriguez will head to Worcester on Friday to throw a simulated game at the Sox’ alternate training site at Polar Park.

Though Cora was unsure of how many innings or pitches Rodriguez would throw in that simulated game, he did place an emphasis on the Venezuelan southpaw’s health in the midst of this latest setback.

“We’ll build him up and see how it goes,” said the Sox skipper. “Like the whole week, the next day is the most important day. Hopefully he’s OK. The goal is for him is to be with us hopefully next week.”

Because his stint on the injured list was backdated to this past Monday, Rodriguez could be activated from the IL as soon as April 8, which — as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo — would line him up to get the starting nod against the Orioles in the Red Sox’ road opener in Baltimore.

Rodriguez, who missed all of 2020 due to a heart condition as a result of contracting COVID-19 over the summer, has not pitched on a big-league mound since September 2019. While he is surely anxious to get back out there as soon as possible, he also understands that he needs to be at his best health-wise before returning to action.

“I’m going to go out there when I’m 100%,” Rodriguez said last weekend. “That’s why we sat together and made the decision. I want to go out there and compete and not think, ‘Oh, my shoulder’ and all that and miss my spots.”

The start of the 2021 season, which for the Red Sox was pushed back from Thursday to Friday, will mark the second consecutive year in which Rodriguez was supposed to be Boston’s Opening Day starter but ultimately was not.

A bout with COVID-19 prevented that from happening last summer, and a bout with left elbow inflammation is preventing that from happening this spring.

“It sucks for him because going into ‘20 he was supposed to be the Opening Day starter,” Cora said of the 6-foot-2, 231 pounder back on March 26. “Going into ‘21, we announced it and now he’s not. But I told him yesterday, I said, ‘Hey, man. The way you throw the ball, the way your career is going, at one point in your career you will be an Opening Day starter. Maybe more than once.’ So he took it as a professional. With him, I think the communication is very clear. It’s very genuine. And for him to accept it and think about the future and not the first game of the season, it is a testament to who he is right now as a pitcher, as a person, as a leader in this team.”

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi named Red Sox’ Opening Day starter after Eduardo Rodriguez was scratched due to dead arm

For the second year in a row, Nathan Eovaldi will be starting for the Red Sox on Opening Day against the Orioles at Fenway Park.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora had originally named Eduardo Rodriguez as the team’s Opening Day starter last week, but those plans have now changed since the left-hander was scratched from that start due to dead arm.

“Nate is going to start Opening Day,” Cora said earlier Friday morning. “He’s in line to do that. And there’s no problem with that. The way we present it to him and the pitching staff, especially in a season that there’s a lot of unknowns, their bodies are going to let us know how we treat them.”

Eovaldi is coming off his best outing of the spring thus far in his last time out against Baltimore on Wednesday at JetBlue Park

The 31-year-old right-hander kept the Orioles off the scoreboard while scattering all of four hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts over 5 2/3 efficient innings of work.

As it turns out, that was Eovaldi’s last in-game action of the spring, as he will now just get some work in in the bullpen a couple of times between now and Thursday.

“He’s built up as far as the pitches and all that,” Cora explained. “He’s ready to go. It’s just a matter of how we manage his week. So probably two bullpens before he faces the Orioles.”

Last year on Opening Day, which came on July 24 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Eovaldi yielded just one earned run on five hits, one walk, and four strikeouts over six strong innings against Baltimore en route to picking up his first winning decision of the 2020 season.

Before Friday’s news, Boston’s starting rotation for their opening weekend series against Baltimore was probably going to look something like this:

  1. Eduardo Rodriguez
  2. Nathan Eovaldi
  3. Garrett Richards

Rodriguez being scratched from Opening Day on account of dead arm has since thrown a wrench in those plans, as Cora explained Friday morning.

“Now we’re kind of like rescheduling everything,” said the Sox skipper. “We’re going over plans. We had it all set up, but now we have to sit down and go over our situation, where we’re at dates-wise, and all that. And we’ll make a decision.

The thing about this is that it’s opening weekend, right?,” he added. “It’s such a big deal because it’s opening weekend. But if this happens during the season, it’s not a big deal. You just skip one guy, you move the other one, and you make decisions based on your schedule and we’re they’re at. But now, because everything was so structured up until now, now we have to scramble a little bit. So, we’ll have more news in the upcoming days.”

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)