BOSTON (CBS) –Eduardo Rodriguez didn’t pitch in 2020 after being diagnosed with myocarditis following his bout with COVID-19. But the southpaw said that he is back to full strength and ready to take the mound for the Boston Red Sox.

Rodriguez is a full go down in Fort Myers, and tossed his first bullpen session of Spring Training on Wednesday. He’ll throw another on Saturday, when he may face live BP, according to manager Alex Cora.

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Rodriguez is not taking anything for granted this season, not after being forced to sit out last year.

“I enjoy every time I go out there and have the ball in my hand. Even talking to the guys, just being here is a real blessing,” Rodriguez said during his Friday morning Zoom session from Fort Myers. “You see a lot of people go through the troubles, people dying [from COVID]. Being back here is something I really feel happy about.”

Rodriguez said that he had a bad case of COVID-19 and he feels fortunate to be alive. He’s urging people not to take the virus lightly.

“Wear a mask, wash your hands — just be careful,” he said. “This isn’t something we can play around with. I was feeling really, really bad. It’s not something to play around with.”

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Luckily, that’s all in the past for Rodriguez. The 27-year-old hasn’t pitched for Boston since Sept. 29, 2019, when he concluded his best season in the majors. Rodriguez was 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA over 34 starts in 2019, taking the reins as the team’s ace. He’s been working hard over the offseason to make sure he can replicate that success in 2021.

“That’s what I was working this offseason, to get my body and my mind ready. Working to be ready to get here and go out every five days, make 30-plus starts,” he said. “I feel stronger, better right now. My shoulder feels good after my bullpen. I feel ready.”

Rodriguez hopes to be the leader of the Boston rotation this season. He’s confident in the group of starters that includes Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, Garrett Richards and Nick Pivetta, a collection that could get even stronger when Chris Sale returns from Tommy John surgery over the summer.

Cora confidently said Thursday that the Red Sox can contend this year, and Rodriguez echoed that sentiment on Friday.

“We have a really good rotation. When Sale gets back here, it will be way better. Don’t sleep on us,” said Rodriguez. “We’re coming in really good. I’ve been out there the last three days with the guys and we look really good.

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“We’ll show everybody what we got when the lights go on,” he added. “The pitching staff, the hitters you see every day, we know we’re going to be fine.”

CBSBoston.com Staff