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After lost COVID-19 season, Red Sox LHP Rodríguez a full go

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

By JIMMY GOLEN

AP Sports Writer

When Eduardo Rodriguez last pitched for Boston, he was chasing after the milestone of a 20-win season.

He fell short.

And then things really went wrong.

Instead of returning from the pandemic shutdown in July with the rest of baseball, Rodriguez was stuck in bed, sick with the coronavirus. When he recovered from that illness, doctors diagnosed him with myocarditis -- a complication of COVID-19 that affects the heart and wound up costing him the entire 2020 season.

"After everything I went through, to be here with the guys, I'm really excited," the 27-year-old left-hander said in a Zoom call with reporters on Friday from the Red Sox spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida.

"I just thank God I had the chance to survive that and get back to baseball," he said. "I'm really blessed to have a chance to get back here. You see a lot of people, the troubles that they have, people dying and all that. So having the chance to be back here is something I really feel happy about."

Rodriguez went 13-5 for the Boston team that won a franchise-record 108 games and the World Series in 2018. He came into the next year overshadowed in the Red Sox rotation by Chris Sale, David Price and even Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi.

But Rodriguez outpitched them all, going 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA to finish sixth in the AL Cy Young voting. He made his major league-leading 34th start on the final day of the season with a chance at 20 wins, but did not figure in the decision. Still, his wins, ERA, starts, 203 1/3 innings and 213 strikeouts were all career highs.

Rodriguez was lined up to start on opening day in 2020 before testing positive for the coronavirus and being diagnosed with inflammation in his heart muscles. He said he couldn't even complete a 25-pitch workout without feeling tired; on Aug. 1, just one week into the season, he was shut down for the year.

"As a baseball player, you're always doing something," he said. "To just be out there, turning on the TV every night and watch everybody playing and I wasn't part of that, it was hard for me."

After reporting to camp this year, he said, he is ready to have "a regular spring training."

"I don't get fatigued any more," Rodriguez said. "I feel the way I normally feel when I get to spring training. So I think everything's going to be fine."

Manager Alex Cora is counting on another workhorse season from Rodriguez, with Price and Porcello gone and Sale recovering from Tommy John surgery. But the manager said the most important thing was seeing Rodriguez arrive in camp healthy.

"Forget baseball," Cora said. "It was a tough year for him, health-wise. For him to be able work out and go through his progression and be in the situation he is - amazing."

Cora said Rodriguez has been cleared for full activities since October. He pitched a bullpen session on Wednesday and had no problems; the team will continue to monitor him.

"We have to pay attention. That doesn't mean we're going to slow him down," Cora said. "The way he reacts is going to determine how much we give him."

Rodriguez was asked if he had advice for those who weren't taking the pandemic seriously.

"Just wear your mask, wash your hands," he said. "It's not a thing that we can play around with."

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Updated February 19, 2021

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