Alex Cora abruptly removes Garrett Whitlock from start and Red Sox fans are worried

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox
Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox / Paul Rutherford/GettyImages

Garrett Whitlock got knocked around early in the Boston Red Sox's April 16 matchup with the Cleveland Guardians.

In the top of the second inning, two two-out doubles put the Guardians on the board, but Whitlock recovered nicely and the third and fourth innings went quickly for the right-hander. He sat seven Cleveland batters down swiftly after allowing just one single to Steven Kwan in the top of the third.

But by the time the fifth inning came around, Joely Rodríguez was on the mound for Boston. The Red Sox pulled Whitlock after 54 pitches with no explanation. And to add insult to a potential injury, Rodríguez let up a home run to the second batter he faced. It only got worse from there.

It was later revealed that Whitlock was pulled due to left oblique tightness, which is a relief for the Red Sox's already stressed rotation.

Garrett Whitlock abruptly pulled from start, Red Sox reveal cause is left oblique tightness

Boston's lineup is riddled with injuries and it cannot afford to lose another pitcher. Whitlock already had to move up a spot in the rotation because Nick Pivetta has been mending a flexor strain. It's uncertain how much time Pivetta will miss, but losing both him and Whitlock could mean the end for Boston's pitching staff.

The Red Sox's depth starting option, Cooper Criswell, started in the fifth spot against the Angels on April 13. The right-hander pitched well for his third-ever MLB start — he pitched four innings, fanned four batters, walked one and allowed a two-run homer.

Beyond Criswell, many of the Sox's other depth options aren't ready for big-league action. Jason Alexander has pitched well in Worcester recently, so if Whitlock needs a stint on the IL, he might be the next call-up. The 31-year-old right-hander has posted a 3.07 ERA in three starts and he's struck out 13 batters and allowed six walks.

It is yet uncertain how much time Whitlock will need to recover before his next start, but hopefully for the Red Sox, it isn't long. They have depth options, but none are throwing as well as the starting rotation has been.

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