Nathan Eovaldi is the last man standing from the Boston Red Sox 2019 starting rotation, until Eduardo Rodriguez is cleared to return after testing positive for COVID-19. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Before the 2019 season, one question mark for the Boston Red Sox was what to do with Brian Johnson, a left-hander out of minor league options but unable to crack Boston’s crowded rotation.

Now, Johnson and others are vying for a spot in the rotation, which has vacancies.

What happened to that 2019 rotation?

Rick Porcello: Not re-signed.

David Price: Traded.

Chris Sale: Sidelined after Tommy John surgery.

Eduardo Rodriguez: Out for now after testing positive for COVID-19.

That leaves Nathan Eovaldi, the man who shined during the 2018 postseason but then missed 12 starts in 2019 because of a troublesome elbow.

For now, Eovaldi is the ace.

“We know he’s got great stuff.” Red Sox Manager Ron Roenicke said during a Zoom press conference after Eovaldi looked good during an intrasquad game Thursday (four innings, one hit, four strikeouts, one walk).

“If you watch Nate – the history of Nate – when he has command, nobody hits him. Hopefully, we get to that here and we’ll see it during the season.”

Eovaldi looks to be in shape for a fine season – and, yes, one intrasquad game is a small sample. Eovaldi has always thrown heat and can mix pitches. He said he’s worked on a better slider, and it is showing.

“I feel like it’s improved,” he said, also during a Zoom conference. “It’s definitely helped having (recorded) some quick outs for me. When I (was) ahead in counts in the past, that’s always been what’s got me in trouble.”

Quick outs mean keeping the pitch count low, which translate into longer outings.

With a suspect rotation, Boston needs a lot from Eovaldi.

Eduardo Rodriguez was the Red Sox best starting pitcher last season, winning 18 games. He has yet to report to the team after testing positive for COVID-19. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

AS FOR RODRIGUEZ, his situation mirrors everything about baseball in 2020 – we don’t know. He is in Miami, recovering. Reports last week had Rodriquez improving but “not feeling 100 percent,” according to Roenicke.

To be able to join the team in Boston, Rodriguez will have to test negative at least two times.

“He wants to be ready for Opening Day (July 24), but we’ll have to see how it goes,” Roenicke said. The Red Sox will “give him instructions, basically, on how to stay in shape.

“It just depends on how long the thing goes, when we can get the negative tests from him, and how he can come up and join us.

“There is definitely a time when we’ll have to make that decision … We need to hear some good news pretty soon.”

THE CURRENT ROTATION features Eovaldi, Martin Perez and Ryan Weber. Perez, 29, was a free-agent signing who was 10-7 with a 5.12 ERA for the Twins last year. Weber pitched 21 games for Boston (three starts), with a 5.09 ERA.

After that, Boston’s options include Johnson, who would have to added to the 40-man roster, Brian Mazza, who made his major league debut last year with the Mets (nine games, no starts, 5.51 ERA), Mike Shawaryn (Sea Dogs starter in 2018, relieved 14 games for Boston last year) and Kyle Hart (began last year with the Sea Dogs, then was promoted to Pawtucket and placed on the 40-man roster).

On Saturday, the Red Sox added left-hander Mike Kickham to its player pool” (leaving 10 more spots in the 60-player pool to be filled). Kickham, 31, was signed to a minor-league contract in December. He pitched briefly for the Giants in 2013-14 (14 games, three starts), and has gone back and forth from starter to reliever most of his minor league career (31 games last year in Triple-A, 13 starts, 4.27 ERA).

Boston will keep trying to piece its pitching staff together. Chaim Bloom, the new man in charge of the Red Sox, is in for a challenging season.

HADLOCK FIELD is finally hosting sports with the four-day “Hadlinks” target golf event that concludes Sunday. The Sea Dogs have scheduled another Hadlinks weekend Aug. 6-9. Team President Geoff Iacuessa is looking into other events, including a dine-in experience on the field, which other teams, including the Pawtucket Red Sox, have done in their stadiums.

“We’re being respectful of what the gathering mandates are,” Iacuessa said. “We’re working with the city and the state on what that means for an open-air stadium like this. As we get more clarification on that, we can unveil more events.”

Kevin Thomas — 207-791-6411

[email protected]

Twitter: @KevinThomasPPH


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