The knuckleballer had a strong outing for Pawtucket as his return from suspension nears.
Steven Wright made a relief appearance in the third inning of Pawtucket’s game on Tuesday, and looked sharp in his outing.
Wright went six solid innings with eight hits, one unearned run and one strikeout. He wasn’t overly impressive, but limiting an opponent to one run through six relief innings is promising. The Red Sox could use Wright’s arm with David Price‘s unknown status.
Since Wright endured a DL stint to give his rehabbed knee more time to full recover. His suspension kicked in once he returned the active roster (April 29), giving him a target return date of May 14.
Wright started five games last season, going 1-3 with an 8.25 ERA and nine home runs in 24 innings pitched. It’s safe to say, Wright wasn’t right last season. His knuckleball wasn’t fooling anybody from the moment he took the mound.
The last time Wright looked healthy was in 2016, when he went 13-6 and posted a 3.33 ERA in 156 and 2/3 innings. Of course, former manager John Farrell ruined his season — and possibly career — by pinch running him in a meaningless Interleague game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in LA. Wright has never been the same pitcher since that injury.
While Farrell no longer manages the Red Sox, there’s still time for Wright to redeem himself and salvage his career. However, Boston’s current rotation poses a bit of a challenge to find innings for Wright.
Reserving judgment on Price’s status moving forward, the Red Sox already have a starting rotation of Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Price. Additionally, Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez are starters who are forced into reliever roles. Essentially, the Red Sox already have seven starting pitchers on the active roster without Wright.
Should Price’s injury cause a longterm DL stint, Wright could seamlessly transition into Price’s spot in the rotation. However, one could argue Velazquez, who is 4-0 with a 2.38 ERA in 22 2/3 innings, deserves that spot.
If Wright returns to the Red Sox and pitches effectively for one or two starts, what should the Red Sox do with the rest of the staff if Price is scheduled to return soon?
It never hurts to have a plethora of pitching options, but at some point they may need to take away from an area of strength (starting pitching depth) to add to an area of weakness (late-inning bullpen depth). It’s great to have seven or eight guys who can go six innings.
But it’s crushing to only have two guys who can protect a lead in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning in Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel. That was evident last night against the Yankees when Heath Hembree crapped himself.
If Wright isn’t apart of the starting rotation, do we really expect him to make a significant impact for the Red Sox? Unless the Red Sox part ways with Johnson or Velazquez, they already have long relief options. Wright’s future with the Red Sox is cloudier than a winter day in Boston.