Eduardo Rodriguez Injury Increases Brian Johnson’s Importance

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BOSTON, MA - MAY 26: Eduardo Rodriguez #52 of the Boston Red Sox delivers in the first inning of a game against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park on May 26, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Eduardo Rodriguez Injury Increases Brian Johnson’s Importance

This was supposed to be a special season for the Boston Red Sox. Instead, the team keeps tripping over odd and/or unexpected obstacles. The latest in that series took the form of a knee injury to young left-handed starter Eduardo Rodriguez. E-Rod, as he is known, suffered a subluxation, which is a partial dislocation of the knee cap, in his right knee after slipping in the bullpen prior to his start on Thursday. Rodriguez has been placed on the 10-day disabled list, and Brandon Workman has been recalled to take his roster spot. Brian Johnson will eventually be called up to take Rodriguez’s turn in the rotation

Red Sox Lose Rodriguez to Knee Injury

With the offseason addition of Chris Sale, Boston’s rotation was supposed to be nigh-unbeatable. However, thanks to the injury bug, that hasn’t had a chance to come to fruition. Sale and Rick Procello have been good or great, but the third member of the Big Three, David Price, has yet to pitch an inning, though he did just return to the majors. Steven Wright, last season’s surprise sensation, hasn’t been the same since suffering a shoulder injury in August and will miss the rest of 2017 with a different ailment.

Now, Rodriguez will be forced to miss time, though hopefully not much. While he got shelled after injuring his knee, he had been spectacular for most of the first two months. Through 10 starts in April and May, E-Rod accumulated a 4-1 record with a 2.77 ERA, 59 strikeouts, and 21 walks. Including his injury-affected dud, he still owns a respectable 3.54 ERA, and added six more strikeouts while walking nobody. Assuming his knee heals fully, expect Rodriguez to get right back on track when he returns from the disabled list. He is putting together what could finally be his breakout season.

Workhorse Workman

In the meantime, Workman is a capable replacement. He has been effective as both a starter and a reliever in his career with the Red Sox. This season, he’s tossed three innings in the majors, and hasn’t allowed a run. In 15.2 innings with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, Workman has a 1.72 ERA, 19 strikeouts, and six walks. He’s not on Rodriguez’s level in terms of talent, but he can hold his own and provide bullpen depth

Johnson’s Importance Highlighted

While the Red Sox, overall, have a good farm system that is producing stars all over the field, they’ve had trouble developing viable starting pitchers. Johnson was once a top prospect, but had fallen off due to inconsistency and injury. When the team lost Wright a couple weeks ago, Hector Velazquez, not Johnson, got the first call to replace him. Velazquez failed his test, so Johnson got the call. He’s now thrown 14 innings for the Red Sox this season, and has allowed just four runs. More importantly, he’s recorded a 14:3 K:BB ratio. His last start, a complete game shutout in his Fenway debut, cemented him as the go-to guy for spot starts.

Johnson’s recent success, assuming he sustains this level of performance, will prove as important as anything to the Red Sox playoff hopes. Boston’s starting pitching depth was paper thin BEFORE Wright and Rodriguez went down. There are no reinforcements left behind Johnson if anything else goes wrong, and it’s never safe to assume nothing else will go wrong. Johnson must continue showing the team that he’s back to being the pitcher everyone thought he was.

His performance in Triple-A this season (2.82 ERA, 37:17 K:BB) backs up his big league numbers. Two starts in the majorsĀ isn’t any kind of sample size, but Johnson has the pedigree. He’ll need to keep pitching like it for the Red Sox to make it very far. At this point, he is their depth.

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