Craig Breslow names potential Lucas Giolito replacement in Red Sox starting rotation

Boston Red Sox Spring Training
Boston Red Sox Spring Training / Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

The Boston Red Sox are already strapped for arms. A potentially season-ending injury to its biggest free agent addition of the offseason has made the situation much worse.

With Lucas Giolito likely needing Tommy John surgery to repair a partially torn UCL and flexor strain, the Red Sox need to scrape up another starter to take his place. With just one true starter remaining in the rotation, the situation is looking grim. Brayan Bello is Boston's only experienced starter, and he's just 24 years old.

Despite having no other true starters in the MLB-ready lineup, Boston is surprisingly prepared for an event like this. The Sox were banking on having very few starters in the lineup from the jump, so they told many relievers to show up to spring training prepared to pitch starter-level innings. Jordan Montgomery would still be a better option, but Boston signing him seems less and less likely by the day.

One of the pitchers Boston told to prepare as a starter is already catching eyes. Chief baseball officer Craig Breslow said he may have a shot at making the starting rotation.

The Red Sox acquired Cooper Criswell after he was designated for assignment by his previous team, the Rays, when the 2023 season ended. The 27-year-old career reliever has made just 10 MLB appearances across three seasons. He's been used as a starter or opener twice in his career and all of his 2023 appearances were in relief.

New acquisition Cooper Criswell has a shot to make the Red Sox starting rotation after Lucas Giolito injury

The bulk of his recent experience comes in Triple-A, where he made 17 starts in 23 appearances for the Durham Bulls in 2023 and logged a 3.93 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 84.2 innings.

“I think what has been impressive and what we knew we were getting is an elite strike-thrower," Breslow said of Criswell. "I think there were some questions as to whether or not we can help boost the stuff and I think in pretty short order, it’s ticked up a little bit while maintaining the ability to shape pitches very, very well and pounding the strike zone. So I think he’s definitely put himself in the conversation.”

Criswell and the rest of the Sox's potential starter options don't address their biggest need — longevity. Boston signed Giolito to be an innings-eater and Criswell, Tanner Houck, Garrett Whitlock and/or Josh Winckowski likely can't provide the innings the Red Sox would ideally want them to offer. But with two starting rotation spots up for grabs instead of one, having a quality strike-thrower in a starting slot would still benefit the team.

Not as much as Montgomery or Blake Snell would, but at this point, the Sox would need both of them to make any difference. And that's about as unlikely as this Red Sox squad winning the World Series.

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