Eduardo Rodriguez one of many wild cards for 2021 Red Sox

John Tomase
·2 min read

Tomase: E-Rod one of biggest wild cards for '21 Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

* Throughout this month, we'll put a member of the 2020 Red Sox and one of their most notable statistics under the microscope while assessing their season and what lies ahead. Today's installment: Eduardo Rodriguez.

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It's the only place to start. Rodriguez is the lone player in baseball whose COVID infection led to myocarditis, an inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart.

Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has stressed that the Red Sox are therefore in uncharted territory when it comes to his recovery, though Rodriguez told MLB Network Radio this week that he's riding a bike, throwing, and will soon begin lifting weights in anticipation of being "100 percent ready" for next season.

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Still, a lot can happen between now and then, and epidemiologists remain in the dark over COVID's long-term impacts.

What went right for Rodriguez in 2020

Not much, except for this biggie -- the Red Sox properly diagnosed his heart condition before he overexerted himself and suffered a potentially catastrophic injury. This season became about Rodriguez's health the second he tested positive, and the Red Sox took care of him.

What went wrong for Rodriguez in 2020

He got sick. We've been over the health consequences, which were serious and scary. From a baseball perspective, Rodriguez lost a chance to build on the momentum of his 19-win 2019. No one's holding it against him, given what he battled, but the setbacks he suffered in 2020 could impact him beyond that lost season.

Early outlook for 2021

It's impossible to say. While Rodriguez may be ramping up workouts now, we have no idea how his body will react or if he'll need to back off.

If healthy, there's no question that he's the ace of the staff, a desperately needed stabilizer who can pair with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to give the team some semblance of a 1-2 punch, at least until left-hander Chris Sale returns in the middle of the summer.

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We'll be keeping a close eye on Rodriguez's velocity, since what was effectively a year away from the game is likely to take a toll. He averaged 93-94 mph on his fastball from 2015-19, touching 96 mph in 2019. He may have to work well south of that figure while he regains lost arm strength.

Of course, if he takes the mound at all, the Red Sox should consider that a victory in and of itself.