Baseball Daily Dose

E-Rod Gets Opening Day Nod

by D.J. Short
Updated On: March 18, 2021, 10:20 am ET

2020 was a year to forget for nearly everyone, but there’s finally some light at the end of the tunnel. We can say that for Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, at the very least.

Rodriguez missed the entire 2020 season after a bout with COVID-19 resulted in myocarditis, which is defined as inflammation of the heart muscle. The southpaw wasn’t allowed to do any physical activity for months, finally being cleared to start walking toward the end of the 2020 regular season. He ramped things up slowly from there and had a normal offseason before reporting to camp in February.

Despite his prolonged absence and unfortunate ordeal, Rodriguez hasn’t shown any signs of rust this spring, posting a 2.31 ERA and 14/0 K/BB ratio in 11 2/3 innings through his first three starts. And on Wednesday, the Red Sox named him as the team's Opening Day starter for Thursday, April 1 against the Orioles. Good luck rooting against him.

Who knows how many innings Rodriguez will be able to throw this season, but he has the potential to be a difference-maker as the Red Sox attempt to rebound from a brutal 2020 season. When we last saw him, Rodriguez compiled a 3.81 ERA with 213 strikeouts in 203 1/3 innings, finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young Award balloting. It’s good to see him back on the field, but most of all, it’s good to see that he’s healthy.

Alcantara, Skubal Stand Out

Wednesday was a fun day for two young pitchers with considerable upside.

***** We’ll start with Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara, who fired five scoreless innings with nine strikeouts against the Mets. Sitting in the upper-90s with his fastball, he allowed just three hits while walking none and throwing 45 out of his 65 pitches for strikes. He struck out six batters in a row at one point.

Alcantara has allowed just two unearned runs with 19 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings through his four starts this spring. That he didn’t walk any of the 17 batters he faced on Wednesday is a notable accomplishment. He had eight walks through his first 7 2/3 innings this spring.

Alcantara, 25, holds a 3.69 ERA through 45 starts with the Marlins. While he added some strikeouts to the mix last year, it has always seemed like his stuff should result in more swings and misses. We’ll soon find out if he’s ready to make that leap.

In Yahoo leagues, Alcantara has an ADP (average draft position) of 163.6 at the moment, right in the same area as David Price, Chris Bassitt, Marco Gonzales, and Corey Kluber. Who would you rather have right now?

***** Also keep an eye on young Tigers lefty Tarik Skubal, who continued to impress Wednesday with six strikeouts over three scoreless innings against the Phillies. Two of those strikeouts came against Bryce Harper.

Skubal didn’t have the best command of the strike zone in this one, as he walked three batters while throwing just 38 out of his 70 pitches for strikes, but he gave up just one hit and amassed 12 swings and misses. And his varied arsenal was on display, as he notched strikeouts with four different pitches. The 24-year-old has allowed just three hits with 12 strikeouts in eight innings through his first three spring outings.

The big question is whether Skubal will have a rotation spot to begin the year. Julio Teheran impressed in relief on Wednesday (7Ks in four scoreless innings) and figures to open the year with a spot. The same goes with Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, and José Ureña. Michael Fulmer might be his main competition, though he’s been rocked for 10 runs on 10 hits (including three homers) and five walks through just six innings of work this spring. It might be time to turn the page there. Youth is on the way with this rotation.

Skubal is barely on the radar in Yahoo leagues at the moment, but that could change quickly.

Injury Situations to Watch

Framber Valdez - It has mostly been radio silence from the Astros since it was revealed that Valdez fractured his left ring finger on a comebacker two weeks ago, but we finally got an update on Wednesday. And it was a good one.

While early reports suggested that Valdez could be headed for surgery, the team said Wednesday that surgery was not recommended after a visit to Dr. Steven Shin showed “significant healing” in the finger. There’s still no clear timetable for his return, but this would seem to indicate that he could be back a lot sooner than many feared.

Valdez was a horse for the Astros last year, posting a 3.57 ERA and 76/16 K/BB ratio in 70 2/3 innings in the regular season before impressing with a 1.88 ERA over 24 innings during the team’s playoff run. He’s still a complete wild card in fantasy drafts at this stage, but there are worse dice rolls to be had in the later rounds. It’s never a bad idea to spend a late pick on a player you know you can stash in an IL spot, so keep it in mind depending on the depth of your league.

Zach Eflin - After Spencer Howard was scratched from an appearance on Monday due to back spasms, the Phillies have decided to skip Eflin’s turn in the rotation this week after his back flared up during a recent throwing session. Phillies manager Joe Girardi admitted that the team is “a little concerned,” though Eflin was able to play catch on Wednesday.

Eflin was poised to go into the year as the team’s No. 3 starter behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. The 26-year-old emerged as a trusted arm in the shortened 2020 campaign, posting a 3.97 ERA with 70 strikeouts and 15 walks in 59 innings. If he’s forced to miss the start of the year and Howard also isn’t ready, that could mean Matt Moore, Chase Anderson, and Vince Velasquez claim the final three spots.

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American League Quick Hits: Luis Robert (abdominal) returned to the White Sox lineup on Wednesday … Xander Bogaerts (shoulder) played shortstop for the first time this spring in Wednesday’s game against the Twins … Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the White Sox have engaged ace Lucas Giolito and top prospect Andrew Vaughn about contract extensions … Tyler Glasnow has been announced as the Rays’ Opening Day starter … Rafael Devers went 2-for-3 with a three-run homer and a walk Wednesday against the Twins … Austin Meadows went 2-for-4 with his fourth homer of the spring Wednesday against the Pirates … Jose Altuve went 2-for-3 with a homer and two runs scored against the Cardinals on Wednesday … Trevor Rosenthal (groin) allowed one run on two hits and a walk with a strikeout in his Cactus League debut Wednesday against the Royals … The Red Sox haven’t ruled Franchy Cordero out as a possibility for Opening Day … Rebound candidate Matt Olson launched his fourth homer of the spring Wednesday against the Royals … Yasmani Grandal (knee) is due to catch in exhibition action Thursday for the first time this spring … The Athletics are optimistic that Ramon Laureano (side) could return to action early next week … Bobby Dalbec mashed his fifth homer of the spring — a grand slam — in Wednesday’s win over the Twins … John Means allowed one run (a solo homer) with four strikeouts over four innings Wednesday against the Braves  … Kyle Gibson struck out six batters over four hitless frames Wednesday against the Diamondbacks ..Jose Quintana’s strong spring continued on Wednesday against the Mariners, as he struck out six batters over 3 2/3 scoreless innings … Orioles closer candidate Tanner Scott was clocked at 100 mph while striking out two batters in a scoreless inning Wednesday against the Braves … Jordan Montgomery tossed five hitless frames Wednesday against the Blue Jays … Red Sox right-hander Tanner Houck was among the team’s cuts on Wednesday … A.J. Puk allowed two runs in two innings with four strikeouts in his spring debut Wednesday against the Royals … Alex Kiriloff was hitless Wednesday against the Red Sox and is now just 3-for-25 (.120) this spring …  Kyle Higashioka (side) is expected to return behind the plate for Saturday’s game … Thomas Hatch left Wednesday’s Grapefruit League appearance with right elbow/forearm discomfort and will be sent for additional testing … Angels reliever Felix Pena is expected to be sidelined 2-4 weeks with a Grade 1 hamstring strain.

National League Quick Hits: Fernando Tatis Jr. is expected to return to the Padres’ lineup Thursday … Walker Buehler allowed an unearned run with five strikeouts over four innings Wednesday against the White Sox … Reds ace Luis Castillo fired three scoreless frames against the Indians Wednesday in Cactus League action … Braves manager Brian Snitker is unsure whether Mike Soroka (Achilles) will be able to make a spring training start … Sonny Gray (back) played catch on Wednesday … Zack Wheeler struck out four batters over five scoreless innings against the Tigers on Wednesday … Kenley Jansen struck out the side in his appearance against the White Sox on Wednesday … Dominic Smith was scratched from Wednesday’s lineup due to general soreness in his right wrist … Newly-minted Cardinals leadoff man Tommy Edman continued his hot spring, going 3-for-3 with a run scored Wednesday against the Astros … Willson Contreras went 3-for-4 with a homer and five RBI against the Padres on Wednesday … Chris Paddack took a step back Wednesday against the Cubs, allowing four runs in just 1 2/3 innings … Didi Gregorius (head) will be reevaluated on Friday … Amir Garrett (forearm) and Lucas Sims (elbow) threw live batting practice sessions Wednesday and could pitch in exhibition action this weekend … Will Smith went 1-for-2 with a homer and a walk against the White Sox on Wednesday … Alex Dickerson went 3-for-5 with a homer Wednesday against the Rockies … Joey Lucchesi tallied three hitless innings Wednesday against the Marlins and will likely hold down a rotation spot if Carlos Carrasco (elbow) starts the season on the injured list … Tejay Antone (groin) could throw a bullpen session this weekend … Spencer Howard (back) has yet to be cleared to resume throwing … Pierce Johnson has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 groin strain … Odubel Herrera slugged his third homer of the spring on Wednesday and appears to have the edge on the Phillies’ starting center field job … Mitch Keller was rocked for eight runs in two-plus innings against the Rays on Wednesday … Phillip Evans (hamstring) could return to game action by the end of the week.