It’s been a glorious day for baseball.
Today, two beloved baseball players made their long-awaited returns: Trey Mancini played his first game at Camden Yards after beating colon cancer, and Eduardo Rodriguez made his first start for the Red Sox since COVID-19 and an ensuing case of viral myocarditis sidelined him for the entire 2020 season.
Someone tell the commissioner we’re going to need two Comeback Player of the Year awards over here in the American League.
ERod’s first day back on the mound didn’t get off to the best start, but all’s well that ends well, as the Red Sox won their fourth straight game, tied the Orioles atop the division standings, and their beloved starter got the win. Rodriguez pitched a full five innings, allowing four hits, three runs (all earned) on a pair of home runs, striking out seven, and walking none of the twenty batters he faced. He threw 79 pitches, 56 for strikes. Rodriguez struggled in the first, including giving up a 2-run homer to Orioles rookie Ryan Mountcastle, but ultimately, managed a strong start overall. Until today, Red Sox pitchers had not allowed a home run through the first six games; the last time a Boston rotation managed this collective feat was 29 years ago.
But win or lose, the most important takeaway from today is that Rodriguez is here and healthy enough to pitch effectively. I’m not concerned about the pair of home runs; three of the four hits he allowed came in the first inning. After the first inning, Rodriguez retired the side in order in the second, third, and fifth innings, and his final line was pretty solid for any pitcher, let alone one who has endured what he has over the last thirteen months.
In 2019, Rodriguez symbolized consistency. He was (and remains) the future of a Boston starting rotation that was crumbling at an alarming rate. He finished the season with 19 wins, the only pitcher in the rotation who was both healthy and effective. Now, in 2021, Rodriguez symbolizes resilience. He suffered through an intense illness, and his road to recovery was long and careful. But he’s back now, and with him, hope for this team and all of us. This pandemic has affected everyone’s lives, and watching Rodriguez return to form today is the latest reminder that we are inching closer to brighter days and better health.
A glorious day, indeed.
Photo: USA TODAY