Red Sox: How Hector Velazquez factors into the 2018 pitching staff

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 01: Pitcher Hector Velazquez
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 01: Pitcher Hector Velazquez /

There are a few reasons why the Boston Red Sox pitching might be even better in 2018 than it was in 2017. Hector Velazquez should be counted among them.

Hector Velazquez followed up a fantastic debut season in the Mexican League in 2010 by rattling off five straight mediocre years. 2016 was his best season in that league though, and it led to a chance with the Boston Red Sox.

It was hard to know what you were going to get with the right-handed pitcher however. He had mixed results in the Mexican League, and would be in a whole new world in 2017.

Velazquez wasted no time proving himself in Triple-A though, dominating start after start (finished the season with a 2.21 earned run average over 102 innings). It quickly got to the point where I was wondering why the starter wasn’t getting a chance in the Majors.

He finally got his Major League chance on May 18. This didn’t go to well though. In fact, you could call it disastrous. Velazquez gave up six runs on nine hits (three home runs) over five innings. He looked extremely hittable and even led to some saying he just wasn’t a Major League pitcher.

That’s kind of a ridiculous claim after one outing though, isn’t it?

It would turn out to be, as it was the only appearance he made that was even remotely bad.

Velazquez ended up not getting another Major League appearance until June 14. That was in a long-relief appearance that saw him throw 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

This led to another chance at a start, that saw him go 5 1/3 innings, giving up two runs. Those would be the last two runs he allowed all year.

The final five appearances of the year saw Velazquez throw a combined 11 scoreless innings. His ERA dropped from 10.80 after his first appearance, to 2.92 at the end of the season.

Over 24 2/3 innings, Velazquez recorded 19 strikeouts compared to seven walks. He posted a 1.14 walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) while opponents hit just .236 against him.

Those are all great numbers, but the 29-year-old doesn’t have a defined role in 2018. So what exactly will he be doing for Boston?

It’s safe to assume Velazquez will get a look in Spring Training. There, the Red Sox will try to figure out exactly who is making the roster in what roles, and who the emergency arms will be.

Boston’s already got a strong rotation, and it’s tough to envision Velazquez pushing the two-or-so pitchers ahead of him to get in on the action. Out of the bullpen he proved to be effective too though.

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From there, he could earn a role as a long reliever/spot starter. Of course, if Steven Wright‘s legal problems are solved by then, he’s the front-runner for that position.

Due to all this, there’s a strong chance Velazquez once again starts the year in Triple-A. While he’s definitely earned the right to pitch in the Majors, sometimes the cards just aren’t aligned right.

That doesn’t mean he won’t be a major factor to the Red Sox 2018 season though.

Expect Velazquez to be the first (maybe second) emergency arm. Should someone get injured (and let’s be honest, it’s the Red Sox, everyone will get injured), Velazquez could be thrust into the rotation.

Due to this, he’ll have an inconsistent schedule. Velazquez won’t be making a start for the Red Sox every fifth day, but expect there to be plenty of appearances from the Mexico native throughout the year.

While a starter role seems ideal, Boston could use him out of the bullpen throughout the year as well. Not only as a long reliever, but as a mid-late innings guy if needed.

Last year, Velazquez made three one inning appearances in the Majors. He combined to allow no runs on one hit and one walk, while striking out three in that time. Those short outings don’t seem to phase him.

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With all of this in mind, the Boston Red Sox seem to have a Swiss Army Knife of a pitcher in Hector Velazquez. His role will never be completely defined, but they can use him in any situation necessary. So expect him to be a big part of the hopeful success of 2018.