FORT MYERS, Fla. -- What had become increasingly inevitable over the past week became a reality on Thursday morning, when lefty Eduardo Rodriguez was officially ruled out for the start of the season by manager John Farrell.
"He is not going to be ready for the start of the season," said Farrell. "So ... we'll address each phase as it comes. Most importantly, we want to make sure that his stride direction, his stride length, all of those, are normal as we then build the intensity on top of that."
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Rodriguez suffered a patella subluxation in his right knee on Feb. 27. Wednesday was the first time Rodriguez threw off the mound since the injury, but it was not a full-intensity session.
The three top candidates to fill in while Rodriguez is out are Henry Owens, Steven Wright and Roenis Elias.
• Owens keeping focus on helping team
"I think the best way to describe this is he's going to go through phases of work," said Farrell. "Right now, he's in a bullpen phase, and that will be on an every-other-day basis until the intensity is capable of being ramped up."
It remains to be seen how much time Rodriguez will miss to start the season, but Farrell made it clear that the Red Sox won't skip any steps, and the lefty will have to go through a regular Spring Training progression.
"The best-case scenario is when he's first ready and available," Farrell said. "I'm not trying to avoid your question, but there are steps that we have to go through here, and I don't have an exact number of days that he'll have to advance through each of those phases.
"I can tell you this: Anytime we get a starting pitcher that goes out on rehab, you're getting them to 80-90 pitches. You can't bring them back with the potential that they overtax a bullpen. We've got to build to that point. He needs Spring Training."
Rodriguez is coming off a strong rookie season in which he went 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA in 21 starts. The Red Sox hope he can be one of the key pitchers in the rotation behind David Price.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.