The Boston Red Sox rotation just took a major hit with the loss of Eduardo Rodriguez. What are the options available to minimize the loss?
Eduardo Rodriguez will be out of service for a significant amount of time. Just a walking boot is two weeks of immobility followed by the rehab process and then to the minors for some fine tuning. Realistically we may not see Rodriguez until September and that may be optimistic. So what are the options?
Brian Johnson has made three recent starts and the Red Sox have won all three. None is of the masterpiece variety, but the 27-year-old lefty has done his job. In 13.1 innings, Johnson has allowed five earned runs, seven walks, 13 hits, and has steadily increased his pitch count as Johnson becomes more acclimated to the rotation. Johnson will remain. But then what? Who follows Johnson?
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Right-hander Hector Velazquez does not look impressive with a .323 BABIP, 10.3 H/9, 6.2 K/9, and 4.13 FIP. On the other side of the Velazquez coin is a 6-0 record, 2.5 BB/9, 49.4 GB%, and a 2.66 ERA. Velazquez made two starts in early April and in 10.2 innings allowed three earned runs.
Where is the Velazquez value? A recent start was three innings in a game Boston won against Texas. Velazquez was on a pitch count so that curtailed his innings, but Velazquez has done excellent duty in long relief. In relief, Velazquez has gone 2+ innings in ten appearances. His value may be staying where he is.
Steven Wright appeared fully recovered from his knee surgery until it flared up. Wright is now on the disabled list and indicators are Wright may be there longer than anticipated. Wright made four starts (1-1, 4.13) and would be the obvious choice if healthy. Wright is not, so cross him off the wish list.
If this was the Drew Pomeranz of 2017 (17-9, 3.32) there would be no worries, but according to my calendar, it is 2018. Pomeranz has done nothing this season. Injury-related? Probably. With an 11.4 H/9 and 5.1 BB/9 in 37 innings, there is nothing to give a world of confidence. The injured Pomeranz is working his way back and maybe the fifth starter by default and not competition.
Jalen Beeks is one of the best hurlers in the International League. The 25-year-old lefthander has an assortment of pitches and a somewhat quirky delivery. Beeks made one emergency start for Boston in which Detroit simply took apart the nervous rookie. This is not the IL. Do you risk a trial by fire? If this was Kansas City, Beeks would be pitching, but this isn’t KC, folks.
Doug Fister? Not the Fister now pitching for Texas as Fister is a euphemism for a pitcher who is hanging on. Every year teams troll the scrap yard for the retreads. That is what a Fister is or a Sean O’Sullivan (remember him?) who fill out a rotation or fill in. The Red Sox may be searching Korea, Japan, Mexico, et al for one. This will not solve a problem but create more.
The all for one gang of pitchers. This was exhibited in the recent Velazquez start and Tampa Bay has utilized it to the extreme. Get three or four (hopefully) quality innings and then line up the bullpen. An inning from Robby Scott may show this is a bad idea, but any port in a storm. Just think bullpen burnout.
Right-hander William Cuevas has been excellent with Pawtucket and has surfaced in Boston. Will the almost 28-year-old get a shot? But why stop at Cuevas? Justin Haley and Chandler Shepherd are two right-handers in the PawSox rotation. And don’t forget 28-year-old lefty, Josh D.Smith. Finding all four on MLB Prospect Watch requires a deep search.
What are quality starters available? The Yankees among others have been in the hunt for a starter and now Boston may join in. J.A. Happ has drawn interest from New York and so has Chris Archer. Both would immediately solve the fifth starter situation, but to get them what do you give up? Boston’s system is dreadful compared to other teams seeking a starter so that may be a fool’s errand.
The All-Star break will give a pause and a chance to shop around or reconfigure the rotation. The next few days should be interesting.