The Boston Red Sox are looking up at the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees in the AL East this season and while they are definitely underdogs going into the season, a 60-game season means it might only take one or two great weeks to be in the Wild Card race. Here are the most intriguing storylines this season:
He dealt with injuries yet again last season after receiving a big contract from Dave Dombrowski and at one point Alex Cora tried to put him in the bullpen.
Well, this year it seems like Opening Day is all his after Eduardo Rodriguez tested positive for COVID-19. Starting with a win vs Baltimore would be an encouraging start to what will be a sprint, not a marathon.
Get Healthy E-Rod
Eduardo Rodriguez is the other starter atop the rotation this season that will need to step in with Sale and Price’s absence this season. But things certainly haven’t gotten off to the best start, as Rodriguez isn’t even in Boston yet because he got the virus when he was still in Florida.
A big deciding factor to how long the Red Sox can stay in the playoff race will be the timetable for his return.
The more time that Eduardo Rodriguez misses in Summer Camp, the more time it will take for him to get ready for the season, and therefore the longer the Red Sox will be without their best starter this season.
And the longer he is out means the longer that Ron Roenicke will have to put out openers in the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation, which is certainly troublesome.
Right now if Rodriguez is not able to start Opening Day, then the rotation will look like this:
Opener 1 (Probably Collin McHugh)
Verdugo’s First Impression
I am sure you have heard the saying ‘You only have one chance to make a good first impression’ and it certainly pertains to Alex Verdugo. He was the centerpiece coming back in the Mookie Betts deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and by no means am I expecting him to be Mookie Betts, but Red Sox fans should expect for him to perform at around the same level as a guy like the 2018 Andrew Benintendi.
He says that his back feels good after he wasn’t going to be ready for the season if it started on time, but he is able to swing freely without any problems, which is definitely a great sign for fans this season. If he can bring his offensive production to the table–at probably the seventh spot in the lineup–it will make the lineup that much scarier to opposing pitchers.
Opener, Opener, Opener…
You’ll be hearing the word ‘opener’ a lot this season unfortunately after Chris Sale is out for the season recovering from Tommy John surgery and David Price was shipped off to Hollywood.
But that doesn’t mean that the opener won’t be important. In fact, if the Red Sox openers at the back of the rotation can just keep the Sox in games (two or three run deficits at worst) before the bullpen can take over then it gives the lineup a chance to make something happen.
But then if the openers allow a team like the Yankees or the Rays to get out to an early lead in the game then they’re in trouble because when they play the AL and NL East teams with great bullpens it makes it hard–even with a talented lineup–to make a comeback.
For all your Red Sox news and analysis, follow Ben Fadden on Twitter @benfaddenmlb
(Photo: Franklin Franklin II, AP)