Rodriguez Impresses in Debut

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Red Sox pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez's first game in the major leagues, in many ways, was similar to every other starting pitcher's debut - it took place during 1/162nd of his team's season. For that reason, it's important not to read too much into any single game.

But that should not take away from a stellar performance.

The 22-year-old lefty struck out seven Rangers batters in 7.2 IP, allowing three hits and two walks. Yes, the Rangers are two games under .500. But Rodriguez could not legally drink before the start of last year and has just 48.1 AAA innings under his belt, and the veteran Red Sox rotation has hardly been effective, so any such flashes of brilliance from the team's young assets are overwhelming positives.

Independent of the results - which, in the smallest possible sample size, are nearly meaningless - Rodriguez threw fire. As Eno Sarris of Fangraphs noted Friday, based on that single game, his 95 mph average fastball velocity is the highest among lefties in the game - the second hardest throwing lefty, James Paxton, sits a full unit down at 94.

Throughout his minor league career, which he began as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League back in 2010, Rodriguez has been effective overall. Despite allowing some hits - 8.1 per nine innings - he struck out 7.8 per nine and walked 2.8. He kept minor league batters in the park, allowing just 22 homers in 534.2 IP.

In both of the last two years, Rodriguez appeared on the top prospect lists for Baseball America, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. The Sox acquired him from the Orioles at last year's trade deadline in exchange for reliever and free-agent-to-be Andrew Miller.

While Miller has gone on to be an excellent closer (in the first two months of 2015) for the rival Yankees after signing a 4/$36M contract, he was a rental for the O's. Preceding the trade and after suffering a knee injury, Rodriguez had posted a 4.79 ERA with the AA Bowie Baysox. The Red Sox sold relatively high on Miller and bought low on Rodriguez.

Boston was out of contention in 2014 and was still in the running to re-sign Miller in the offseason, meaning there was virtually no reason not to deal him. If Rodriguez doesn't realize his full potential, the deal was still a shrewd one, with Ben Cherington siphoning a high-ceiling prospect from an AL East rival. If he *does* meet his potential, the deal was a coup for the Red Sox GM.

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