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Rodriguez's return restores Red Sox rotation to full strength

From ESPN - July 17, 2017

BOSTON -- Two days before the All-Star break began and again the day after it ended, Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski killed the buzz of armchair general managers throughout New England by announcing the team is not in the market for another starting pitcher at the trade deadline.

On Monday night at Fenway Park, Eduardo Rodriguez can help explain that logic.

Rodriguez will be reinstated from the disabled list to face the Toronto Blue Jays in his first start since he fell off the bullpen mound and injured his right knee on June 1 in Baltimore. And like last season, when the young lefty rejoined the rotation after the All-Star break following a brief stint in Triple-A, the Red Sox view his return as the equivalent of a midseason trade ... only without the prospect-heavy cost of acquisition.

The way Dombrowski sees it, getting Rodriguez back allows him to focus on other areas. And after a weekend in which the Red Sox went 24 consecutive innings without scoring a run against the New York Yankees and lost setup man Joe Kelly to a left hamstring strain, take your pick of which need is more urgent: a power hitter or the bullpen. (A call to the Chicago White Sox might satisfy both positions, with third baseman Todd Frazier and relievers David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak available.)

But starting pitching? Even if the Red Sox were looking for help behind Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Drew Pomeranz, they probably could not do much better than Rodriguez.

Well, assuming he can stay healthy.

"We lost a guy at the time who was throwing the ball extremely well," manager John Farrell said of Rodriguez. "He was powerful. He was gaining confidence. He was working deeper into games. Hopefully we can regain that form that he was pitching with prior to the injury. He would be a huge boost to this rotation."

It's easy to forget now, but Rodriguez was the Red Sox's best starter through the first two months of the season, a time when Price was still recovering from a spring-training elbow injury. The 24-year-old posted a 3.54 ERA through 10 starts and one relief appearance, allowed three runs or less in eight starts and was on his way to having a better season than most pitchers who have been the focus during trade-deadline season.

Fellow lefty Jose Quintana, for instance, got off to a rough start for the White Sox, lugging a 5.60 ERA into June before finally putting together a strong seven-start stretch. But that did not stop the Cubs from shipping four minor leaguers, including top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, across town in a blockbuster trade for Quintana last week.

It's little wonder, then, that the Red Sox are perfectly content to plug Rodriguez back into the rotation and let pitching-needy contenders -- we are looking at you, Astros and Yankees -- wince over the asking price for Gerrit Cole, Sonny Gray and Justin Verlander.

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