Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke sums up sorry state of starting rotation

Ron Roenicke sums up sorry state of the Red Sox rotation.

We knew that the Boston Red Sox would struggle to fill their thin starting rotation but finding a third viable option wasn’t supposed to be this difficult.

Ryan Weber is the No. 3 starter in name only. With Chris Sale out for the season and Eduardo Rodriguez working his way back from complications stemming from his bout with COVID-19, Weber was tasked with starting the third game of the season.

The right-hander has had two turns in the rotation this season and both have been a disaster. The lowly Baltimore Orioles battered him for six earned runs in his first start and the New York Yankees knocked him out in the fourth inning last night after tagging him for three runs.

Weber is now 0-2 with a cringe-worthy 11.57 ERA and 2.42 WHIP. His nine earned runs, four home runs, and seven walks are the most allowed by any pitcher in the league. Weber still hasn’t recorded a strike out, giving him the undesirable distinction of being the first Red Sox pitcher since 2012 to make consecutive starts of 3+ innings without striking out a batter.

Most pitchers would be in danger of losing their spot in the rotation following these dumpster fire performances but apparently Weber is relatively safe. When Ron Roenicke was asked by reporters after the game if he would rethink Weber’s role, the manager was at a loss for an alternative option.

“Who do we have that we can say that we’re going to put in that’s going to be better than Ryan?” responded Roenicke.

Translation: We know he’s terrible but my bosses haven’t given me much to work with.

I normally welcome a candid response from a manager. It can be refreshing to get something other than coach-speak and canned responses that sound scripted. This isn’t one of those times.

Roenicke’s reply is hardly an endorsement of Weber. It will do little to settle the shaken confidence of the overwhelmed pitcher. If he does indeed intend to stick with Weber in the rotation, the implication that he’s only here because the Red Sox have no other choice isn’t exactly inspiring to the pitcher or the fans.

Is it really true that the Red Sox have no other viable options in the organization? That’s hard to believe and may indicate that Roenicke has limited familiarity with the pitchers that aren’t on the active roster.

Brian Johnson had a miserable 2019 but we saw in previous seasons that he is capable of being a serviceable temporary solution. He owned a 4.33 ERA in five starts in 2017 and 4.15 ERA in 13 starts the following year. That’s nothing to get excited about but it’s a tremendous upgrade over Weber. Why not see if that version of Johnson is still there? If he fails, cut him loose and try something else.

Kyle Hart has had success in the minor league system. Darwinzon Hernandez was supposed to be a weapon out of the bullpen but he’s being stretched out to see if the strikeout machine can thrive as a starter. Mike Shawaryn failed to impress as a reliever in his brief major league debut last year but his minor league track record suggests he could be a capable spot starter.

What about the prospects? Tanner Houck and Bryan Mata are both among the top-10 prospects in the Red Sox farm system. Neither has been deemed ready for the big leagues yet but without a minor league season this year, fast tracking their arrival might be worth consideration. There’s only so much more they can develop in simulated games in Pawtucket. What do the Red Sox have to lose by letting these talented arms get their feet wet in the majors to see if they can catch lightning in a bottle?

These options are mostly unproven but that’s better than the option who has already proven that he’s not the answer. We know who Weber is. He throws strikes but doesn’t have swing and miss stuff. He can navigate a lineup once as an opener or long reliever but asking him to turn a lineup over multiple times is pushing your luck.

If the Red Sox honestly believe that Weber is better than these alternatives then that’s a pathetic realization about the state of this pitching staff. Perhaps Roenicke’s comments were an off the cuff remark from a manager frustrated by having his rotation ravaged by injury, illness and trades. If the reality is that the Red Sox are stuck with Weber in the rotation because they have zero confidence in the alternatives, this 60-game schedule is going to feel like a very long season.