Josh Winckowski might’ve played himself out of Red Sox rotation mix this week

2024 Boston Red Sox Spring Training
2024 Boston Red Sox Spring Training / Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

Opening Day is less than two weeks away, and the Boston Red Sox's starting rotation is beginning to take shape.

Boston's pitching has been surprisingly good this spring, given the circumstances surrounding the team. But that also means one rough performance could take someone out of the running for a starting job.

Josh Winckowski may be out of contention after his March 14 start against the Phillies.

Winckowski started off strong in the first inning — a lineout, a flyout and a groundout had the Phillies back on defense after just seven pitches. In the second frame, things fell apart for the pitcher.

Winckowski and the Sox let up four runs on five hits, and a throwing error by Triston Casas at first base allowed the inning to run longer than it needed to. The Red Sox kept Winckowski in for the third inning and he got out unscathed, so they sent him out for a fourth frame.

Red Sox Josh Winckowski's rough start against the Phillies could mean he's out of a starting rotation slot

After logging two outs to start the inning, two straight doubles ended Winckowski's outing on a sour note. Thursday's was his roughest outing of spring so far — he let up five earned on eight hits and a free pass in 3.2 innings. Winckowski fanned two batters and didn't let up any long balls, but he got knocked around by Philly's tenacious offense.

It's unfortunate that one less-than-stellar performance could take Winckowski out of the running for a starting job, but Tanner Houck and Cooper Criswell have both been pitching well enough to potentially earn spots for themselves.

Houck's focus this offseason was to throw more strikes, and he's delivered so far. In four appearances, Houck has posted a 1.59 ERA and 12 strikeouts over 11.1 innings. He's allowed six hits, two of them home runs, but Houck's uptick in velocity and better eye for the strike zone are serving him well so far.

Criswell hasn't played as well as Houck has, but his production is outperforming expectations, as many reporters believed he could open the season in Triple-A. Criswell has logged a 3.48 ERA, he's fanned 10 batters over 10.1 innings, and he's allowed 10 hits, four earned runs and two free passes.

Winckowski still has time to get back on his feet after the rough start, but unless he plays flawlessly for the rest of spring training, he may be out of a chance at a starting job on the Opening Day roster.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora likes to shuffle players around the lineup, so Winckowski may get another shot to start eventually. For now, though, Houck and Criswell are making the best case for starting rotation jobs.

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