The Eduardo Rodriguez frustration pops up once again

Rob Bradford
March 31, 2019 - 1:36 am

SEATTLE -- Eduardo Rodriguez tested the Red Sox' patience once again. This time the timing couldn't have been worse.

The Red Sox aren't about to jump ship on Rodriguez after 4 1/3-inning, 105-pitch, six-run outing Saturday night in the Red Sox' 6-5 loss to the Mariners. It's just the lefty's first start of the season and considering the optimism he left the Sox with throughout spring training there is still plenty of hope for the southpaw. (For a complete recap, click here.)

But all things considered, this was not a good time for the 25-year-old to do what he did at T-Mobile Park.

Despite another inefficient pitch count, Alex Cora didn't echo his previous missive from early March in Port St. Lucie when he said of Rodriguez, "He’s old enough. He’s been in the league for a long time. It’s time for him to step up." This time the manager focused on his starter's ability to rebound from a 31-pitch first inning, zeroing in on everything in between the initial frame and the three-run blast hit by Jay Bruce in the fifth inning.

Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie was the one who sent the pointed message this time around.

"The one thing about this team (the Mariners), I think we’ve all seen the last three nights, they’re game-planning really well against our starters. They’ve done a really good job," LeVangie said. "I thought we had a good gameplan going into it tonight, how we were going to combat it. I felt like they were going to be sitting on changeups all night long, sitting out over the plate. We sort of got away from our plan a little bit. I thought our cutters were going to play a big part of this pitch mix tonight. He used the cutter a lot but he didn’t keep the righthanded hitters uncomfortable in with it. We made a few mistakes to the lefties that we can’t do. We didn’t use his changeup against the lefties, which was really surprising against his best pitch versus lefties. It’s a wipeout changeup. It’s a really good pitch against those two guys. We didn’t get to it."

So, why didn't Rodriguez and/or catcher Blake Swihart follow the plan?

"I don’t know," the pitching coach added. "It was a big part of my plan against those guys tonight. It’s unfortunate. One big swing cost us the game. Other than that, I thought he competed good. He had a few good innings with his pitch count down, then a couple innings where he kind of throws up a little bit. They’re doing a good job against us. We’ve got to do better."

The frustration from LeVangie wasn't hard to decipher, especially considering the need for Rodriguez to do what Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi couldn't.

After three games the Sox' starters have totaled just 12 1/3 innings, giving up 19 runs (18 earned) on 22 hits with 12 strikeouts and seven walks. They have allowed seven homers while throwing 169 of their 270 pitches for strikes.

This time, after watching the Mariners' approach the first two games, the Red Sox thought they had the right plan. But when it came time to implement the blueprint Rodriguez went in a different direction. 

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they are left having to chalk the night up as another uncomfortable lesson for the starter they have tremendously high hopes for.

"Yeah, a little kick in the teeth here and there, a wake-up call," LeVangie said when asked how the Red Sox can make sure such a deviation doesn't happen again. "Give credit where it deserves. They’re doing a hell of a job. We have to make some adjustments. That’s all I can say about it. I thought we had a great plan going in. I really did."

Ironically, it has been the Red Sox' bullpen which has supplied the optimism, with Saturday night offering the latest example. Heath Hembree, Tyler Thornburg and Hector Velazquez stepped up after Rodriguez to combine for 3 2/3 scoreless innings. According to LeVangie, it was no accident.

"I think we see it when the bullpen comes in, the ability to make things happen," the pitching coach explained. "(Seattle has) done a good job getting out of the chute scoring early against us and putting us behind the eight-ball a little bit. We have to stay one step ahead of them tomorrow. We have to be ready from the first inning on and let it go from there. Get away from maybe some normalcy a little bit. That’s what they’re predicting."

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The Red Sox made things interesting in the ninth inning thanks in large part to three straight, two-out errors from Seattle third baseman Dylan Moore. They paved the way for three unearned runs for the Red Sox, who managed to get the potential game-tying run to third base before Xander Bogaerts took a called third strike to end the contest.