The Boston Red Sox intend to use Nathan Eovaldi in the starting rotation. Who does he replace? That depends on which day they use him.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski shed some light on that. He confirmed that Eovaldi will join the rotation, making his team debut on Sunday against the Minnesota Twins.
Brian Johnson remains on track to start Thursday’s game but will move to the bullpen after that to open a rotation spot for Eovaldi. Johnson has been a pleasant surprise when given the opportunity, posting a 2.22 ERA in five starts this season. He hasn’t pitched well as a reliever (5.10 ERA) yet those results haven’t persuaded the Red Sox to keep him in the rotation over Drew Pomeranz.
It’s been a brutal season for Pomeranz, who has gone 1-4 with a 6.91 ERA in nine starts. He returned from a stint on the disabled list on Tuesday but did himself no favors in his case to stick in the rotation. The lefty allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings in a loss to the Baltimore Orioles. His velocity was down and he had trouble locating the curveball that is essential to his success.
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Pomeranz will stay in the rotation for now but he could be on a short leash. He deserves the chance to make more than one start following his return from injury. After all, Pomeranz was the team’s second-best starting pitcher last year. His upside is higher than Johnson’s. However, the Red Sox need the version of Pomeranz they saw last season and he’s running out of time to prove he can still perform at that level.
The Red Sox will give Pomeranz an extended break before his next start, which will be Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies. That gives him six days of rest between starts. Either they want to ease him back in after a stint on the DL or Pomeranz needs the extra time to work on his mechanics.
The additional rest should be good for Pomeranz but there was an alternative that was also appealing. Boston could have kept Pomeranz on his normal schedule and held Eovaldi’s debut for Monday. That would have allowed them to give David Price an extra day off. He’s 6-3 with a 3.27 ERA when he receives 5+ days of rest.
More importantly, pushing Price’s start back a day would have meant avoiding the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball. Price has lost both his starts against New York this season, getting shelled for 12 runs over 4 1/3 innings (24.92 ERA) between the two outings. Take away those two meltdowns and Price owns a 3.35 ERA against everyone else. The Yankees may be in his head.
Keeping Price away from the Yankees would have been ideal but using Pomeranz in that series would have been a bigger disaster. Pomeranz is in desperate need of a confidence boost to get him back on track and facing the Bronx Bombers isn’t the best way to do it.
Eovaldi will soon join the rotation but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll remain there the rest of the season. Pomeranz may get a quick hook if he doesn’t straighten out soon but the same could be said for Eovaldi if he fails to impress with his new team. Johnson will be ready to step back in if he’s needed. Eduardo Rodriguez should return at some point and throw another wrench into the mix.
The Red Sox will have no shortage of options once everyone is healthy. Eovaldi may not stick in the rotation if he doesn’t succeed down the stretch. What we do know is that he’ll be given a shot to earn his spot.