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Eduardo Rodriguez is not to blame for Sunday's loss

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The Red Sox lost a game they might have won if Eduardo Rodriguez had been healthy enough to take the mound. But that doesn't mean it would have been wise for him to take the mound injured, either.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As the Red Sox saw Henry Owens give up run after run Sunday afternoon, there was some frustration to be found in the fanbase. And it's certainly easy to understand why the Fenway Faithful might have a problem with yet another Owens start, it was not only Owens that was the problem. Too often, the target was the man Owens was replacing: Eduardo Rodriguez.

Here, for instance, we have Nick Cafardo:

So when you see what players go through to remain active because their team needs them, you have to question the mind-set of Eduardo Rodriguez, who bailed out late Saturday on his scheduled Sunday start. That put manager John Farrell and the entire team in a bind.

...

We will continue to ask should E-Rod have taken the ball and at least given it a go. Had he decided to pitch, the Red Sox had no reason to hold him back and say no. Rodriguez held himself back, and in that case the team has to abide by the the pitcher's wishes.

Rodriguez should have taken the ball.

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While most Red Sox players understand the importance of every game down the stretch, there are some who need to figure out that it's late August and there's not much time left to wait for perfect health.

Give me a break.

No explanation is needed for why fans love players who fight through pain and injuries to take the field as often as possible. The only reason Dustin Pedroia earned no additional credit for playing almost the entire 2013 season with a torn ligament in his thumb is because he'd pretty much already maxed out his goodwill in Boston. Curt Shilling's Red Sox legacy was cemented by the World Series win in 2004, but given a hint of legend thanks to his bloody sock.

And for all that, it's at once ridiculous to expect all players to do so, and often not even a good idea for the team.

Not all injuries are created equally, and as much as fans might like to think that they're capable of taking a one-sentence description of symptoms and diagnosing both the severity of pain and its likely effect on the player's performance, we really, really can't. Especially when it comes to the extremely fine-tuned motion involved in pitching. "Mild" does not mean "inconsequential." Hell, when the injury first cropped up in Rodriguez' last start, the Red Sox looked at him in-between innings, thought he could make it work, and just two pitches into the fifth, John Farrell had seen enough to tell him that Rodriguez needed to come out.

Could Eduardo Rodriguez be much worse than Henry Owens? Well, yes, but not practically so, since there's not much difference between an eight-run disaster and a twelve-run disaster. Could he be better, even injured? Absolutely, but...lest we forget, we've got a pretty good idea of what it looks like when Rodriguez attempts to pitch injured. Remember, his initial month-long stint with the Sox (May 31st to June 27th) this season came pretty much one week after he suffered an injury setback significant enough to leave him skipping a Triple-A start. He wasn't brought back because he was fully  healthy and ready, but because the Red Sox needed someone to pitch, and figured he was at least worth a shot.

Turned out he wasn't. Rodriguez pitched to an 8.59 ERA during that miserable month. And all it took, in the end, was a few more weeks in the minors to get him right, to the point where we're now lamenting his absence rather than feeling relief from it And no, being bad while hurt doesn't mean Rodriguez lacks toughness or anything like that anymore than Dustin Pedroia lacked toughness for being a huge negative at second base when he tried to play through his various injuries in years gone past (see, for instance, June 2012).

Often the best move for both the team and the player is not to try to fight through injury, but to sit out and get back to 100%--or near enough to it--as quickly as possible. Rarely is it correct to second-guess the player's own judgement on their ability to play at a reasonable level. And let's not kid ourselves: if John Farrell had said that Rodriguez wasn't feeling right but that they were going to go with him anyways, any poor performance would probably be added to the list of reasons people want him gone.

For the Red Sox, there's an uncomfortable number of spot starts going around. Their sudden run of success is very much threatened by the damage done to the rotation by the injuries to Wright and Rodriguez. But there's no use trying to pretend these guys aren't hurt and throwing them out there while they don't feel ready to compete. Likely all that will do is leave the Red Sox with an even longer wait before they're actually ready to be the productive players they once were. Yes, it might cost the Red Sox a game or two or even three. It might, before all is said and done, cost them too much, at which point we might well look back at injuries as one of the reasons the 2016 Red Sox went wrong.

If it does? That will suck! But it's not something that can really be helped. Injuries happen, and sometimes those injuries sink seasons. The 2010 Red Sox, for instance, stand out as a team that could have gone a long way if they hadn't lost important players to the DL for extended periods of time. But John Farrell and the 2016 Red Sox can't manage in fear of that. They have to accept it's a possibility, and instead play out these last six weeks with an eye to the long game. They need to be trying to get Rodriguez and Wright back at full strength for as long as possible rather than risk having them at 50% for the rest of the year.

That might change in the very end. If either injury saga drags on long enough that we're getting into the last couple starts of the year with playoffs on the line and the specter of a Henry Owens start looms large over a potentially decisive game, well, it's probably worth giving the injured player a shot so long as they have any reasonable chance of success given that at that point there wouldn't be a long game to play for if they didn't take the chance. But we're still weeks away from that point.

For now, accept that we might need to see some more Owens, or Brian Johnson, or Roenis Elias, or whoever else they might throw at us. It might not be fun, it might seem like it can't possibly be the right move. But we're not in nearly so good a position to make that determination as the pitcher who's missing out, and it's a little silly to presume to pass judgment on a player's health and commitment without both an MD and a personal examination.