Boston pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez throws during a spring training Tuesday at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida. Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Eduardo Rodriguez threw to live hitters for the first time this spring on Tuesday at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, a significant step for the Red Sox left-hander after missing the 2020 season due to myocarditis brought on by COVID-19.

Red Sox Manager Alex Cora was impressed, saying he saw much of the same when Rodriguez he went on to have a breakout season in 2019. In that season, Rodriguez finished sixth in the American League Cy Young award voting after posting a 3.81 ERA in 34 starts.

“He looks good,” Cora said. “The usual. Under control, not too much effort with the ball coming out of his hand the way it used to. He looks good. For a guy that didn’t compete and didn’t pitch last year, he looks very similar to what we saw in ’19 in spring training working his craft, working hitting his spots, trying to get better. I’m happy for him personally. It wasn’t easy for him last year and for him to be able to show up and do normal things as a regular baseball player is good for him.”

The lefty drew a crowd of teammates, coaches and staffers for his session on Tuesday, an acknowledgement of the significance of the event. Cora has said that the Red Sox will be cautious with Rodriguez, but he’s under no restrictions.

J.D. Martinez was among those who took some swings against Rodriguez on Tuesday. The two trained together during some of the offseason, and Martinez is looking forward to big things from the lefty in 2021.

“Eddie’s Eddie. He’s a trip, man,” Martinez said. “He’s fun to work out with. He’s a fun guy to be around. He’s always joking around. He’s got a really good personality. But he seems ready. … He’s a big part of our team and our success for the future. We’re going to need him. He’s getting ready and we’re excited to have him back, that’s for sure.”

CATCHER KEVIN Plawecki, who was placed on the COVID-19 related injured list a week ago, is expected in Fort Myers by Wednesday, Cora said. It’s unclear if Plawecki still needs to go through the multi-day intake screening process players must pass before joining the team for workouts.

Outfielder Franchy Cordero, who is also on the COVID-19 list, is still a ways off, with Cora saying the hope is that he’s with the team by early next week. Reliever Hirokazu Sawamura is still in Japan due to visa issues, but Cora doesn’t think the delay will be enough to delay the start of his season in April.

“When he gets here, he’ll let us know where he’s at,” Cora said. “He’s throwing in Japan, getting ready. Right now, he’s not behind. He has his throwing program. It’s just a matter of the traveling here and everything that goes with the virus.”

The Red Sox will need to clear 40-man roster spots for Plawecki and Cordero when they’re activated. It’s unclear why the players are on the COVID-19 list, which does not require a positive test for placement.

NICK PIVETTA, who was acquired in a trade from the Phillies last season and a favorite to land the final rotation spot, also threw live batting practice on Tuesday.

“He has worked so hard to put himself where he’s at right now,” Cora said. “Physically, mentally, mechanics-wise. He’s a good conversation, a guy who’s open to keep learning. I’m happy he’s part of us. He did a good job toward the end of last season.

“This is a guy we trust,” he added. “It’s one of those guys who has a lot of upside. He proved it last year in a small sample size. People are going to point at that. I do believe the ability is there, the pitch ability is there and the stuff is there.”

BRYAN MATA, Boston’s top pitching prospect, is in big-league camp for the second straight year. The 21-year-old faced some of Boston’s best hitters, including J.D. Martinez.

“He was excited,” Cora said. “Good stuff, but it was his first one. You could tell he was trying to do a lot. That’s what this thing is for, it’s a learning experience. For him to be able to face hitters – he made some good pitches to J.D. at one point. You can see the stuff. It’s impressive..”

MATT ANDRIESE, who was signed to a one-year deal in December, could play an important role on the club’s pitching staff as a swingman. Cora hopes the former Ray will prove as valuable in that role as Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez did during the club’s championship run in 2018.

“We’re going to stretch him as a starter and see where we go throughout spring training,” Cora said. “He’ll be ready to do anything. He’ll be our utility guy in the pitching staff. You need those guys. We saw it in ’18 and in ’19 when it didn’t work. Guys like that, they save bullpens, they save the rotation and help the manager a lot, to get some sleep at night. He has been good.”

Cora has been impressed with how Andriese and fellow newcomer Adam Ottavino have rubbed off on the club’s other pitchers thus far in camp.

“Great teammate, puts work in the weight room,” Cora said. “Very smart about pitching.”


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