Rafael Devers' Josh Winckowski endorsement feels like shot at Red Sox front office

Toronto Blue Jays  v Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox / Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

Josh Winckowski had a real shot at making the Boston Red Sox's starting rotation out of spring training.

The young reliever's early spring outings kept him in the running for a starting job until March, but Red Sox coaching staff determined he was better suited to the bullpen before the start of the season. On June 30, Winckowski made another case for a starting role.

He was called up from Worcester to temporarily occupy Brayan Bello's spot in the rotation, who has struggled in recent outings. Bello has racked up a 7.20 ERA over his last seven outings, and the Sox turned to Winckowski in his stead to give him rest and time to fine-tune his arsenal.

But, as he's done before as a member of Boston's rotation, Winckowski shoved. He stalled the San Diego Padres' bats, which combined for a total of 20 runs in their first two matchups against the Sox. Winckowski pitched five scoreless, four-hit innings without issuing a walk. His outing severely contrasted Bello's most recent one, during which he allowed three free passes.

Winckowski may have pitched his way to a longer stay with Boston's starting rotation. The Red Sox's star third baseman tends to agree.

"He’s one of the best pitchers we have. I don’t know why he was in Triple-A. But I feel like he’s a very good pitcher and I’m hoping he keeps doing what he did today and stays with us the rest of the year," Rafael Devers said, as reported by Chris Cotillo of MassLive.

Winckowski played a few weeks out of the Red Sox bullpen after spring training but was sent down to Triple-A to work on his arsenal. He's not a proficient strike-thrower, but he can induce outs when his squad needs them. Devers and Jarren Duran both praised the hurler for his work ethic and believe he could stick it out in the majors for the rest of the season.

Rafael Devers believes Josh Winckowski deserves a regular spot in Red Sox lineup

Cooper Criswell had a great stretch with Boston's starting rotation but was sent down to the minor leagues in mid-June. The Red Sox have tossed a few bullpen games since his demotion which raised some eyebrows among fans — similar to Winckowski's move to Worcester.

But Winckowski could be destined to stay in Boston. Red Sox manager Alex Cora said there's a "good chance" he gets another start next week after his successful outing and because the bullpen is in a good place in terms of health and readiness.

Bello's recent struggles along with season-ending injuries to Lucas Giolito and Garrett Whitlock have left the Red Sox's once-dominant starting rotation feeling strapped. Winckowski is a solid backup option in case of an emergency, but his teammates seem to believe he deserves a long-term spot on Boston's roster.

His outing in Bello's place proved them right.

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