Opinion

Can the Boston Red Sox win with Hector Velazquez?

It's less than a week until Opening Day, and nobody knows who will be the Boston Red Sox fourth starter. If Eduardo Rodriguez is healthy enough to go, should he take the mound, or should the Red Sox play it safe with Hector Velazquez?

How will Hector Velazquez fare in the rotation?

Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (June 13, 2017 – Source: Hunter Martin/Getty Images North America)

The regular season is just a week away, yet there is still a major question with the Boston Red Sox starting rotation. Injuries have decimated the unit, and right now Hector Velazquez is in line to start the fourth game of the season. With Steven Wright suspended and Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz injured, the Red Sox will need to rely on Velazquez, at least for a little while.

Can Hector Velazquez Win Games?

Right now, four of the five spots in the rotation are set. Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello will take the first three games, and Brian Johnson takes the mound on game five. Game four was being saved for one of Pomeranz, Rodriguez, or Wright, but none will be available. This leaves Velazquez as the most likely starter, and he’s anything but a safe bet.

The issues with Velazquez

If a perfect world, Velazquez wouldn’t even sniff the starting rotation. Velazquez is eighth on the starting pitching depth chart, behind the normal starting five, Wright and Johnson. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world. Velazquez has minimal experience on the big league level, and his spring training performance has not been inspiring. As mentioned in a previous article, spring training stats really only matter if the results are phenomenal or terrible.

Thus far, Velazquez has been terrible. In his most recent outing, Velazquez gave up four runs, including two homers, in just 4.1 innings. This adds to a horrible spring, in which he’s produced an ugly 6.75 ERA, per Baseball-Reference.com. He’s getting shelled by minor leaguers, so putting him in a major league game could be asking for trouble.

Additionally, the young righty doesn’t have much of a track record to suggest his spring training has been a fluke. The 29-year old made eight appearances with the Red Sox last season, including three starts. While his 2.92 ERA looks good, the stats don’t look nearly as promising when you dig into those numbers.

In his three games started, Velazquez gave up eight earned runs in just 15.1 innings. Granted, six of those came in his first appearance of the season, but it’s still not a good line. He’s never gone deeper than 5.1 innings, and doesn’t have amazing stuff. Frankly, there’s a reason he’s eight on the starting rotation depth chart.

Why Velazquez will be ok

It’s probably asking too much to expect quality starts out of Velazquez. However, the stars have aligned such that the Red Sox can still win, even with an underwhelming performance by Velazquez.

The game four starter will face the Tampa Bay Rays, arguably the worst team in the American League. After finishing 2017 with an underwhelming 80-82 record, the Rays blatantly went into rebuild mode. They shipped out just about all their good players, including Evan Longoria, Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi, and Steven Souza, just to name a few.

The 2018 Rays have 100-loss potential, while this Red Sox team is a World Series contender. The starting pitcher shouldn’t matter for this game. The Sox should win pretty comfortably.

Even if Velazquez struggles, the Red Sox boast a deep bullpen. While injuries have decimated the starting pitching, the bullpen has stayed healthy throughout spring training. Sale, Price, and Porcello probably will not need much help against the Rays in the first three games, so the bullpen should be rested and ready should they need to bail out Velazquez.

It’s only one start

Additionally, the schedule works such that Velazquez will probably only be needed for that initial run through the rotation. After playing six straight games to start the regular season, the Red Sox get three days off in six days. If manager Alex Cora chooses to, he could completely skip the fourth starters turn in the rotation.

The fifth starter, Brian Johnson is scheduled to pitch on April 2nd, and Sale will get the ball April 3rd. Price and Porcello will take their normal starts in the rotation before Johnson takes the ball again on April 8th against the Rays. Nobody would be pitching on short rest, and Sale would still be in line to start the series opener against the New York Yankees.

The fact that Rodriguez was even being considered to start the first time through the rotation practically ensures that he will be ready for the third time through. Velazquez can be sent back down to the minor leagues, having only made one start against a bad team, which is ultimately the best possible scenario. Even if Rodriguez is not healthy, chances are some other options will be available. Pomeranz doesn’t seemed too concerned about his injury, while Steven Wright’s 15-game suspension will be up around this time.

Obviously, having your eighth-best starting on the Opening Day roster is not ideal. However, a favorable schedule and the overall build of the team ensure that the Red Sox will survive this situation. The Rays should not be a hard team to beat, and it is only one game out of a 162-game season. Velazquez is not the most trustworthy option, but he’s serviceable enough to get the team through one start.

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