Who stays in the rotation when Felix Doubront returns?


Jun 6, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rubby De La Rosa (62) warms up before the second inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox appear to be recovering from their midseason injury woes as Mike Napoli is set to return tomorrow and Felix Doubront is expected to rejoin the Red Sox’ rotation before long. Doubront made his first rehab start on Thursday and performed well, appearing to be fully recovered from the shoulder fatigue which sent him to the disabled list and almost definitely affected his slow start to the season. However, with these returns to the team come roster crunches as the Red Sox will have to decide who stays and who goes and, in Doubront’s case, that will push one of Rubby De La Rosa or Brandon Workman out of the rotation. The question is which one.

Workman made his MLB debut last season and turned some heads as a force in the Red Sox bullpen in the playoffs. He started the 2014 season in the Red Sox’ bullpen but with Boston’s injury woes he has been forced into the starting five– a place he’s more familiar anyway. He has been solid but unspectacular this season, posting a 3.74 ERA and a 17:9 K:BB ratio in 21.2 total innings, though he hasn’t been so good out of the rotation as his ERA has ballooned to 4.70 and his K:BB ratio to 10:8 in his three starts. However, while Workman hasn’t been great, he is at least somewhat of a known quantity out of the rotation.

Rubby De La Rosa, on the other hand, is much less of a known quantity and his first two starts with the Red Sox have reflected that fact. In his first start, he was excellent, shutting down the Tampa Bay Rays to the tune of seven scoreless innings. In his second start, however, De La Rosa allowed four runs on nine hits in five and two thirds innings in a loss to the Detroit Tigers. On top of that inconsistency, De La Rosa has no track record with the Red Sox as those were his first two starts with the team, leaving the question of what he can become wide open.

However, while this issue appears to be a major conundrum for the Red Sox going forward, there is a solution coming in the form of Brandon Workman’s six-game suspension. Workman is currently appealing that suspension, but if he were to accept it upon Doubront’s return, then he could serve his suspension while De La Rosa filled the disputed spot in the rotation. It would merely postpone the decision, but the Red Sox could get a longer look at De La Rosa which could go a long way towards making the decision.

Ultimately, I expect that the Red Sox will follow the last route. Doubront will likely throw in one more rehab start before returning to Boston, and that time coupled with the Workman suspension should allow De La Rosa to build up a nice little sample size at the big league level. It’s not an ideal position to be in by any stretch but at least we know that the Red Sox have no shortage of viable fill-in options for future injuries and suspensions.