The move of Felix Doubront to the bullpen to accommodate Clay Buchholz’s return from the disabled list tonight might be a harbinger of major changes to the Boston Red Sox pitching staff. Whether in the form of a demotion, trade, or release, there is little doubt the performance (or lack thereof) of the team’s starting pitchers has forced John Farrell and Ben Cherington’s hand should they desire to salvage the 2014 season.
Aside from a 16-start stretch last season where he miraculously (check the game log) held opponents to three runs or less in each of those starts, Doubront has exhibited little of the poise required of a Major League rotation piece. The lefty was successful as a reliever in the 2013 postseason, allowing just three hits and a run in seven innings and some pretty high-leverage situations. Though Farrell insists this is only a temporary shuffle, there isn’t much data to suggest Doubront deserves a starting role going forward.
Doubront and Buchholz have both been miserable this season, the latter posting a 2-4 record and ghastly 7.02 ERA and 1.98 WHIP in 10 turns. They’ve hit speed bumps with their health, though it’s difficult to tell if their DL stints were the result of legitimate malady or pathetic performance. Buchholz has alluded to mechanical issues that affected his concentration; if he can regain his focus and be anywhere close to last year’s model, the Sox will have a solid #3 starter. But that’s asking a lot.
Last night’s losing pitcher Jake Peavy,has made every start this season, but following an effectively wild first month of the campaign (2.87 ERA through six turns), has exhibited none of the form that made him an All-Star in 2012 and attractive trade target for the Red Sox last year. Rick McNair suggests retirement is looming for the veteran righty, but unless Cherington is able to move his hefty salary or Peavy is somehow able to right the ship, the Sox are stuck with another disappointment on the staff.
Meanwhile, young guns Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa have impressed at the big league level and deserve a shot to save this crumbling season. But their pathways are blocked. Further, the Red Sox have only won four of their 10 combined starts because they can’t hit. I’ll save that can of worms for later.
Doubront’s move clears one rotation spot, at least temporarily. His arrival in the ‘pen, however, creates a glut of lefties and Chris Capuano may see his employment status soon change. Capuano fell on his sword Monday night in Seattle and has had a bumpy ride in June, but he finished May with a stretch of seven appearances in which he allowed just one run.
Boston’s pitching problem is compounded by the lack of “sure things” and a strong presence of “maybes.” Maybe Buchholz will get it together. Maybe Peavy’s not finished. Maybe the young guys can contribute over the next three months. Farrell and Cherington are left with no choice other than to play Kreskin with the pitching staff, roll the dice, and see what develops. The Stephen Drew signing was clearly not the spark the team needed. With the Sox in a holding pattern of mediocrity, there’s little time to waste.