When Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez got back to the team hotel in San Diego after throwing seven shutout innings against the Padres on Friday night, he posed a question to his teammate and mentor, David Price.

Rodriguez asked Price what he thought of Manager Alex Cora’s decision to pull him after just 93 pitches with the Red Sox leading, 11-0.

“It’s not like you came out after the eighth (chasing a complete game). It’s the seventh,” Price told Rodriguez. “What’s the point of you going out there for one more inning? You go out there, give up a leadoff double, come out and that run winds up scoring? It’s going to ruin your day.”

Price told Rodriguez that he thought it was the perfect time to take him out of the game.

Rodriguez’s response illustrated just how much he had matured in his fifth major-league season.

“He was like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I thought too,'” Price said. “‘When (Cora) gave me the hug, I was like, OK.'”

Rodriguez’s rise from a talented young pitcher to the most reliable starter on Boston’s staff this year has been a joy to watch for his veteran rotation mates, who view him as their protege. Price, fellow Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and lefty Chris Sale have all mentored Rodriguez throughout his career and are proud of the considerable step forward the 26-year-old has made this season.

“They love it. They enjoy it,” Cora said. “They’re watching the game and there’s a few things they point out that he can do better. That’s the beauty of this.”

Like the rest of Boston’s rotation, Rodriguez struggled in March and April, posting a 6.16 ERA in his first six starts. He has been the team’s most consistent starter since, going 13-3 with a 3.39 ERA in 130 innings while Price, Sale, Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi have each endured significant struggles and/or injuries. He is now 15-5 with a 3.92 ERA on the year.

Rodriguez’s jump came after an up-and-down spring training in which the lefty came into camp in great shape and impressed early before getting in Cora’s doghouse with a noncompetitive start against the Mets in early March. After the manager ripped him to reporters, the lefty bounced back and had everyone singing his praises by the time Opening Day rolled around.

By the end of camp, Cora said, the other starters were backing off Rodriguez and even leaving the team’s facility in Fort Myers before the end of his starts. Instead of having Rodriguez try to be Sale, Price or Porcello, the manager has repeatedly said, the focus was on trying to make “Eddy” be the most successful version of “Eddy.”

Price and Porcello both said that transition was an organic one.

“We’re not trying to mold Eddy into being anything,” Porcello said. “We’re just providing guidance and support and help along the way because it’s tough being a starting pitcher at the big league level. It’s a learning process. That’s all it is. He has always been himself.”

Talent has never been the issue with Rodriguez, who was a top prospect in Baltimore’s system before being traded to Boston in a deadline trade for reliever Andrew Miller in 2014. But there had been questions about his conditioning, work ethic and preparation in the past, perhaps an occupational hazard for a pitcher in his early 20s.

The lefty’s success on the mound has gone hand in hand with a noticeable improvement in his work between starts and in the offseason. A full year of good health since recovering from a serious ankle injury last summer has gone a long way toward Rodriguez’s step forward.

“He’s really starting to understand,” Price said. “He’s not just throwing out there anymore. He’s pitching. He’s mixing everything in and he’s learning how to set up different stuff with his sequences. He’s learning what to look for in video before he goes out there. Just identifying little things like that. He’s starting to do everything a really, really good pitcher is supposed to.”

Rodriguez, a popular but quiet clubhouse presence early in his career, has begun to come out of his shell publicly this season. He spent the weekend showing off his new Barry Bonds-style cross earrings, which originated from a conversation with Sale and Price about what it would take for him to get his first big league hit during the team’s interleague stretch this week.

“He went upstairs, came down 10 minutes later and said, ‘I bought them,'” Price said, laughing. “I said, ‘You bought what?'”

Rodriguez, who turns 27 in April, broke into the big leagues at 22. His half-decade of big league experience makes him seem older than he is – a notion familiar to Price, who debuted at 22, and Porcello, who broke in at 20.

“He’s still very young,” Price said. “He was very, very young whenever I got to the big leagues. He has definitely matured in the clubhouse and on the field. He’s still a little kid at heart. He’s definitely matured in all facets of the game of baseball. It’s good to see.”

Porcello, a full-time big-league starter as a 20-year-old with the Tigers in 2009, didn’t win his Cy Young award until his eighth big-league season in 2016. He knows as well as anyone that reaching one’s full potential in the majors takes time.

“Everything (has improved),” Porcello said of Rodriguez’s season. “Maturity, mound presence, overall stuff and command and an overall understanding of his abilities and how to attack hitters.

“Those are all things that come along with being at this level and understanding what it takes,” he added. “Just that’s kind of the normal progression of what guys go through.”

Boston entered the season believing its rotation was a strength. Led by a perennial Cy Young candidate in Sale, postseason heroes in Price and Eovaldi and an innings eater in Porcello, Rodriguez was thought to be the wild card in that rotation. A bizarro-world season for the other four starters has let the spotlight almost exclusively shine on Rodriguez for a period of months.

“He has been our horse in games we’ve needed him to step up,” Price said. “He has done that. “He has stepped up in big moments for us and I’m pumped to see his success out there.”

That success likely wouldn’t have been possible without the lessons Rodriguez learned from his veteran teammates on planes and in dugouts throughout the years. There’s no question those same teammates will continue to push the guy they look at like their little brother to reach even greater heights.

“He has kind of picked stuff from all of us,” Price said. “He wants to be the best version of himself and I think he’s starting to scratch the surface of that. He can do some special things in this game. He’s starting to get that feeling and understand what he’s capable of doing out there.”

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