Boston Red Sox expect rotation changes on the horizon


The Boston Red Sox intend to stick with their current rotation through the weekend, but this band of underachievers may not stay together much longer.

Manager John Farrell told reporters on Wednesday that lefthander Brian Johnson would rejoin the rotation next week, with Henry Owens making his big league debut shortly after.

"“All that is on the horizon,” said Farrell."

The rotation through the weekend shapes up likes this: Steven Wright will close out the series against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, followed by Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly and Wade Miley for the weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

After that, changes will be made. Farrell indicated that Monday’s off day would be a time to evaluate the rotation and provide them with the ability to adjust.

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Johnson and Owens pitched for Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, so they could each squeeze in another start before they get called up to Boston. Farrell stated that he wanted to avoid throwing either rookie into the fire by having them start against the Yankees in New York next week, so we can expect to see them next weekend in Detroit.

Johnson had a rocky major league debut on July 21 against the Astros when he gave up 4 earned runs on 3 hits over 4.1 innings, but he has been outstanding for the PawSox this season. The 24-year old is 9-6 with a 2.54 ERA in 17 starts for Pawtucket.

Owens has a deceptive 3-8 record, but with a 3.16 ERA in 16 starts for Pawtucket. He struggled with some control issues early in the season, but has allowed only 6 earned runs over 25 innings covering his last 4 starts. He also hasn’t walked more than 2 batters in a game since June 9, showing he may finally have overcome those control issues.

With the two young lefties set to join the rotation, presumably that means two members of the current rotation will soon be losing their roles.

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Farrell was non-committal when last asked about Kelly’s future, so after his latest meltdown when he allowed 5 runs (4 earned) without getting out of the 4th inning, he seems like the first candidate to leave the rotation. Kelly may need more time in the minors to figure things out, but at some point you have to believe they will consider moving him to the bullpen on a permanent basis. He still has electrifying stuff, but hasn’t been able to harness it. Perhaps he could over shorter stints in relief.

If the Red Sox were basing their decision solely on performance than Rick Porcello and his bloated 5.81 ERA would be next in line to get booted, but Boston has already invested far too much to give up on him now. They are essentially stuck with him for now and have to hope he can recapture his previous form eventually.

That leaves Wright as the likely odd man out. The Red Sox have always envisioned him as a sixth starter, so his time in the rotation wasn’t expected to last long. He could be moved to the bullpen to serve as a long reliever or move back to Pawtucket to fill the void left by the departing Johnson and Owens.

By next week we could see the Red Sox rotation lining up like this:

Rick Porcello (5-11, 5.81 ERA)
Eduardo Rodriguez (6-3, 4.26 ERA)
Wade Miley (8-9, 4.65 ERA)
Brian Johnson (9-6, 2.54 ERA for Pawtucket)
Henry Owens (3-8, 3.16 ERA for Pawtucket)

The infusion of youth in the rotation could pay dividends for the future. Now is the time to see if these young pitchers have what it takes to make it in the big leagues so that they can plan ahead for next season’s rotation. The results they see from them over the next two months could determine if there is a need to chase after another pitcher this winter. Giving the rest of the league a glimpse of what they are capable of may build their trade value, enabling Boston to package at last one of them in a deal for an established front line starter.

Boston’s rotation has been a mess all season, leading to a league worst 4.91 ERA from their starters. While things may look grim for this pitching staff now, the trio of young lefties that will soon fill out the staff offer a glimmer of hope for a brighter future.