Red Sox will give starter pitchers some much needed rest
By Sean Penney
The Boston Red Sox can afford to give some of their starting pitchers some extra rest down the stretch and none will benefit more than Rick Porcello.
Holding a comfortable division lead late in the season allows teams to give a few players extra rest and set up their rotation for the postseason. An 8.5 game advantage for the best record in baseball offers the Boston Red Sox the luxury of beginning that playoff preparation a bit early.
The Red Sox will take advantage of their place in the standings and September roster expansion by giving their starting pitchers additional time off between appearances. Well, maybe not Eduardo Rodriguez. He already had a lengthy stint on the disabled list. Everyone else could use a break though.
Easing the workload of ace Chris Sale has been a priority all season and he’s getting plenty of it during his second stint on the disabled list. If this were a tighter division race then Sale would probably be back already but the team can afford to be cautious with him. Sale is expected to return as an “opener” during the next homestand.
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David Price skipped a start after getting hit on the wrist by a line drive in his most recent outing. The lefty topped 200 innings six times in a seven-year span, twice leading the league in innings pitched, until last year’s injury-shortened campaign. He should finish well under that considering he’s currently at 152 1/3 innings with enough time for only five more regular season starts. Perhaps the lighter workload will leave more in the tank for the postseason.
A rain delay cut Nathan Eovaldi‘s start in Chicago short after only two innings and 35 pitches. He returned on only two days rest to face the Atlanta Braves, logging another 3 2/3 innings and 86 pitches. That’s 121 pitches in three days for a pitcher who hasn’t topped 102 pitches in a single outing this year. His next start has been pushed back to Tuesday, giving him eight days rest. That gives Eovaldi more time to work out the kinks in the mechanical changes he recently made.
None of the Red Sox pitchers could use a break more than Rick Porcello. He leads the team by a wide margin with 173 2/3 innings this season, which ranks 11th in the majors. Porcello’s 600 innings are the fourth most in the majors over the last three years.
Manager Alex Cora recognizes the heavy workload the former Cy Young winner has been under and has plans to ease that burden.
"“(Porcello) will pitch Sunday and then we’ll make an adjustment with him as far as usage,” Cora told reporters, via Masslive.com. “We’ve been using him a lot. We’ve been talking about resting guys and resting pitchers and I think he deserves it.”"
Porcello has been struggling lately, going 1-3 with a 6.42 ERA over his last six starts in August. He was a bit better to begin this month, holding the Braves to one run over five innings on Tuesday. It also took him 100 pitches to get through those five frames and he coughed up his 24th homer of the season.
A workhorse like Porcello rarely gets the opportunity for extra rest but he’s been good in those scenarios. He’s 19-15 with a 3.41 ERA in 46 career games with 6+ days of rest.
The Red Sox are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot and have put some distance between themselves and the Yankees. Teams rarely have the ability to start resting players this early in September. Even if they are dominating a weak division, there is still home-field advantage to think about. In this case, Boston has a commanding lead in that regard as well.
The ability to lighten the load on their starters down the stretch will ensure they are fresh for what we expect will be a deep postseason run. The rotation seemed to run out of gas by the time they reached October last year. They certainly won’t have that excuse this time.