"“…And are we set with the five guys in our rotation? Joe Kelly certainly has the lead on that fifth spot but we can’€™t ever take for granted that injury, performance, might cause us to make decisions.”"
With regard to the fifth slot in the starting rotation, make no mistake about it, Joe Kelly is the heavy favorite. With that being said, Farrell’s comments indicate his new approach this season and it involves an emphasis on performance. He is not going to give Kelly another 10-15 starts to figure stuff out this year like he did last and he is not prepared to anoint Kelly the fifth starter because of a string of nine good starts to end last season. Players are going to earn their spot and then be required to demonstrate a case to keep that spot once the year gets underway and that is a fantastic thing.
Therefore, if Kelly were to struggle this Spring, Farrell is prepared to look elsewhere and he will find options should he choose to do that:
- Henry Owens – he will either be the fifth starter in Boston or the number one starter in Pawtucket. Quick sidebar: considering Eduardo Rodriguez and David Price are not going anywhere for at least three years, will the Red Sox be comfortable with three left-handers in the rotation? Any way, Owens demonstrated in 2015 that he’s ready to compete at the major league level. He started 11 games for the Red Sox last season, pitched 63 innings, and finished with 50 strikeouts, 24 walks and a 4.57 ERA. Not for nothing, but his 4.57 ERA is pretty impressive considering the fact he surrendered at least seven runs in three of his 11 starts.
- Roenis Elias – as referenced above, Elias was a starter for the Mariners and actually a pretty good one too, if you consider the fact he is a back-end of the rotation pitcher. In 2014, he started 29 games for the Mariners, pitched 163.2 innings, struck out 143 batters and finished with a 3.85 ERA and 1.3 WAR. In 2015, he started 20 games, pitched 115.1 innings, struck out 97 batters and finished with a 4.14 ERA and 0.6 WAR. Fairly impressive, for a fifth starter, which is why he is an option.
Despite having two strong options, like Farrell said, Kelly is the favorite for the fifth slot in the rotation. However, it is encouraging to hear Farrell put the roster on notice that things are changing this season. No spots are going to be handed out or kept because of who they are, what they cost in money or assets (trade) or how many options they have left (Wright, Layne). This season is about performance and winning only. If you are struggling or hindering the team’s success rate, and that goes for Hanley and Sandoval as well, your leash will be real short. No one is guaranteed anything in 2016 and no one is above winning. Good for John Farrell for setting that tone early on.