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Red Sox 6, Orioles 4: What should we make of Eduardo Rodriguez?

Rob Bradford
June 13, 2018 - 12:22 am

BALTIMORE -- Consider it the Felix Doubront lesson.

You don't anoint a starting pitcher a no-doubt, top-of-the-rotation guy until he is a no-doubt, top-of-the-rotation guy. And that's what we're struggling with when it comes to Eduardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez pitched well again Tuesday night, allowing two runs over 5 2/3 innings in the Red Sox' 6-4 win over the Orioles. It was the lefty's fifth straight win, with his team improving to 12-1 when he pitches. Those are all the signs of a guy you might be able to lean on in the biggest games as this season unfolds. (For a complete recap of the Sox' win, click here.)

But the benefit of the doubt isn't quite there. And it shouldn't be. Because in 2013, we experienced something similar with Doubront, and that didn't work out as planned.

In case you forgot, Doubront was another lefty with great stuff. So much so that immediately after winning the World Series in 2013, then-pitching coach Juan Nieves proclaimed that his young pitcher was going to win 20 games in 2014.

While injuries limited Doubront to 27 starts in 2013, the Red Sox did go 18-9 when he took the hill. He finished that season going 11-6 with a 3.87 ERA. Pretty good. From then on, not so much. Doubront's big league career would last two more seasons, resulting in a 7-8 record and 5.32 ERA.

This isn't to suggest Rodriguez will suffer a similar fate. It's just a reminder that he still has work to do. His manager knows it, as does the pitcher.

"Eduardo was good. I think the next step for him is to go deeper into the game and keep that pitch count down," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "There were certain at-bats were we felt he should have put them away. There was a 0-2 on (Mark) Trumbo and he gets to 3-2 count. He did the job, I’m not saying we’re not pleased with the results, but I feel there’s more there. There are certain games we need our starters to go deeper and today was one of them. But he gave us what he gave us. But I think the next step is to get him to six, seven innings and he can do that."

"My focus tonight was in trying to get more deep into the game," said Rodriguez, who finished at a season-high 109 pitches. "Like you said, it’s been a lot of starts that are 5 2/3. That’s not a really good feeling for a starting pitcher. It’s something I’ve got to keep working on. It’s going to come one day, but I need to keep working to try to get deep in the games."

To win all but one of a pitcher's 13 starts is something. Gerrit Cole is the only other American League pitcher to participate in as many as 12 wins for their team. But it's six starts in his last seven tries that Rodriguez hasn't made it out of the sixth inning, resulting in an average of 18.4 pitches per inning.

So, what's the solution to take things to another level?

Cora suggests that a look a better understanding of what he's working with might be a good start.

"He’s very confident, to say the least. It’s just a matter to make that next step, recognize who you are," the manager said. "Sometimes he gets caught up in being someone who he’s not and Eduardo Rodriguez is a good big league pitcher. His stuff is up there. He should stay with his strength. We’ve been preaching that. You can put people out right away. You don’t have to set people up."

Cora added, "If he sees himself from the dugout, what we see, he’d be in awe as far as his stuff. You look up and it’s 95 mph and then 89 mph and the slider and all that. It’s not that he doesn't believe in himself but what we see, it’s probably a lot better than what he thinks he has."

It's a good place to start. Now we're going to find out how Rodriguez can finish.

"They just told me to attack the hitters, attack more, attack more in the counts when maybe you’re 0-2, try to put them away as fast as I can," said Rodriguez of advice from his teammates. "That’s the best way to get deep in the games. Like I said, I’ve been trying, but most of the time, I go to 0-2, try to put the guy out, go to 3-2, they get a foul ball and I’m at six pitches already. It’s something, like I said, that I need to do and try to get deep in the game."

- With his two-run homer in the second inning, Rafael Devers now has 20 career home runs. He passes Bobby Doerr for sole possession of the third-most homers hit by a Red Sox player before his 22nd birthday since 1908 (Tony Conigliaro, 84; Ted Williams, 49).

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