<
>

Red Sox not concerned after Eduardo Rodriguez tweaks knee

BOSTON -- For now, at least, the Boston Red Sox aren't acting like they're overly concerned about Eduardo Rodriguez's right knee after he slipped on a wet mound during a winter ball start in Venezuela on Tuesday.

Dave Dombrowski, Red Sox president of baseball operations, characterized the injury as merely a "tweak," and the team hasn't asked Rodriguez to return to Boston to be examined by their medical staff.

Dombrowski said Thursday that there's a "good chance" Tuesday night was Rodriguez's last start in winter ball, adding that Rodriguez's team, Navegantes Del Magallanes, is unlikely to make the Venezuelan Winter League playoffs.

"At this point, we are not sure if he is coming to Boston or not," Dombrowski said. "We are staying in contact with him in Venezuela and will determine that over the next few days."

But before the Red Sox dismiss Rodriguez's slip as a nothing-to-see-here situation, it's worth noting that the 23-year-old lefty missed five weeks in spring training and the first nine weeks of last season with a dislocated right knee that the club didn't deem serious when it happened Feb. 28.

Rodriguez's previous knee injury nearly sabotaged his entire season. Upon his return May 31 in Baltimore, he altered his delivery to avoid putting too much pressure on his knee and experienced a decrease in velocity. He posted an 8.59 ERA through six starts and was optioned to Triple-A to iron out his mechanical issues.

The Red Sox recalled Rodriguez after the All-Star break, and he posted a 3.24 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 77 2/3 innings over his final 14 starts. But he also missed a start in August because of a hamstring injury that he believed was more serious than the team did.

Rodriguez wanted to go to winter ball as a tune-up for the World Baseball Classic in March. It's too soon to know whether the latest setback with his knee will prevent him from pitching for Venezuela in that tournament, but considering he's pegged as the No. 4 or 5 starter behind co-aces Rick Porcello, David Price and Chris Sale, the Red Sox probably wouldn't mind if Rodriguez takes a pass.

Last week, the Sox traded surplus starter Clay Buchholz to the Philadelphia Phillies. Left-hander Drew Pomeranz and knuckleballer Steven Wright figure to compete in spring training for the final spot in the rotation, with one of them likely headed to the bullpen. A trio of unproven lefties -- Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Roenis Elias -- represents the Red Sox's starting depth in Triple-A.