March 5, 2019

Cora On Rodriguez: "He Needs To Get Better. I'm Going To Be Hard On Him."

Eduardo Rodriguez pitched into the seventh inning in only two of his 23 starts last year.

In five of six starts from May 15 to June 12, Rodriguez could not give the Red Sox six innings, but still threw between 98 and 110 pitches:
May  15 - 5.0 IP,  98 pitches
May  20 - 5.2 IP, 110 pitches
May  25 - 5.2 IP, 101 pitches
May  30 - 6.2 IP, 100 pitches
June  6 - 5.2 IP, 107 pitches
June 12 - 5.2 IP, 109 pitches
June 17 - 6.0 IP, 113 pitches
For several seasons, we have been told Rodriguez has amazing stuff - and there have been exciting flashes (17 scoreless innings last July before being sidelined with an injured ankle) - yet his starts are often frustrating. He would get ahead of batters, but then start nibbling around the edges of the strike zone, perhaps trying to be too fine, in the way that Daisuke Matsuzaka (and Jon Lester before him) used to do.

On Monday against the Mets, Rodriguez allowed three hits in two scoreless innings, with two strikeouts - a pretty bland spring line, really - but manager Alex Cora was not pleased:
There were two at-bats there, the one against (Amed) Rosario and the Dominic Smith one, there were two outs, Rosario, he got ahead right away and then it became a long at-bat, then Smith with two outs, a lefty, he falls behind on 3-0 count. For him to go deeper into games, he needs to attack guys. His stuff was good, he got some swings and misses but those are things we need to get better and he knows it. ... He needs to get better. The stuff is really good, we saw it, threw a slider to (Michael) Conforto, struck him out, swing and miss, good change-ups but we have to be more efficient.
In both innings, Rodriguez retired the first two batters, then gave up singles, one in the first and two in the second, before recording the third out. He needed 41 pitches to get through the two innings (25 strikes, 16 balls).

The next day, Cora elaborated:
[H]e knows what I expect out of him, what we want ... You push guys in different way. He knows I'm going to be hard on him because I know the ceiling. This guy, he's a stud. ... I'll keep pushing him to be great.
Nathan Eovaldi (like many pitchers) has suffered from the same issue:
I'd get ahead of guys, and I'd try to make that perfect pitch, and then I'd leave it up, and it's either a hit or it's a foul ball, (then another) foul ball, and then you end up working an 0-2 count on two pitches into an eight-pitch at-bat. That's something that just can't happen.
Dustin Pedroia is penciled in for his first spring game on Thursday (a game that will be broadcast by ESPN). "I feel good. I feel like I'm just preparing for another season. ... I don't want to get too excited."

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