Evaluating Boston Red Sox pitching as the month of May approaches
The Boston Red Sox pitching staff simply sunk into the morass in 2020. I like to start by paraphrasing that noted baseball intellect, Earl Weaver, who said it all begins with that little bump in the middle of the diamond. In 2020, that bump was more of a pit. The bullpen was awful and the rotation was a match. Now it is 2021 and things are a least giving Red Sox Nation a glimmer of hope. I’ll start with the bad.
Garrett Richards was a risk. That is a point that should be in agreement. Richards – once a rising star – has done nothing since 2015. Injuries and poor performance have created the perfect negative career storm, but with pitching, teams take a risk. The risk for Boston was $10 million. After four starts – still a small sample – this juror has Richards guilty of pitching ineptness.
The flip side of Richards is Eduardo Rodriguez. I didn’t expect much from the portly-looking E-Rod, but after three starts, Rodriguez will have me convinced he has returned to 2019 status. A 3.2 BB% is stunning after 16 innings and hopefully, the trend will continue. I suspected stamina to be an issue but so far that tired spring training arm has taken the ball deeper in each start.
Matt Barnes as closer had – for me – failure written all over it. A three-run jack on Friday night does not have me in the “see, I told you so” mode. Barnes has one of the best “Uncle Charlie’s” in MLB and that is mixed in with a heater in the high nineties. Just minimize the walks and Barnes will have me writing an apology article.
The record shows only 11 1/3 innings pitched but Garrett Whitlock has still not surrendered his pitching virginity – an ERA of goose eggs. Is this kid really that good? The speed spread between his fastball and change is touching 13 MPH. Both are presented with remarkable control.
Nick Pivetta has been a failure in the rotation and bullpen, but that was for the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2020, Pivetta gave two end-of-season starts that were quite positive. This season, Pivetta has done the same. The real issue is his propensity to have bouts of where the hell is the plate? But anyone who speeds up the game like Pivetta does deserve some breaks. Take the ball and pitch it. The opposite of former Red Sox lefty David Price.
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Red Sox director of everything Chaim Bloom likes value and in 2020 he was under the Mendoza Line. Matt Andriese certainly changed that. Andriese has quite a laundry list of pitches, good control, can toss multiple innings, and can do any pitching role. This guy reminds me of Bob Stanley.
Hirokazu Sawamura was not an unknown commodity. A veteran of Japan where he was well-scouted and noted. Sawamura throws hard (95.9) and has a very respectable slider. Not ready to declare Sawarmura as an up in lights success but it appears to be another Bloom plus acquisition.
Martin Perez is no surprise. Perez is what he is – a bottom of the rotation cannon fodder. Red Sox fans saw that in 2020 and so did fans in Texas and Minnesota in his previous destinations. The battle for the rotation and roster spot may be between Richards and Perez when Chris Sale returns or Tanner Houck is released from Triple-A purgatory.
Adam Ottavino is Janus for me – the legendary two-faced Greek God. Or maybe Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates? Ottavino can sparkle or simply cough up a furball. His slider is his “out” pitch and can be unmerciful when in tune. The trouble is the tune is often a flat note. Hopefully, Ottavino will regain that consistency that made him one of the best relievers in the game.
Still under the radar is Bloom’s legitimate pitching trolling success from 2020 right-hander Phillips Valdez. Valdez splits up his fastball and change but the MPH spread is rather meager – 7 MPH. Still the results are positive and Valdez is a solid go-to for manager Alex Cora. If Ottavino struggles Valdez may move up in the pitching food chain.