Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (July 13, 2018 – Source: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images North America)
The Boston Red Sox pitchers have been in a bit of a rut recently. Since David Price’s shutout on August 23rd, the Red Sox pitching staff has allowed five or more runs in all but one game. Fortunately, some reinforcements are on the way. Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright have been activated from the 10-day DL, and Chris Sale is not far behind. With these three coming back, the pitchers will finally get healthy, boosting the team as they enter the final stretch of the season. But how should the Red Sox utilize this infusion of pitching talent?
What to Do With the Now-Healthy Boston Red Sox Pitchers
The Starting Rotation
For the past two weeks or so, the starting rotation has been comprised of Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi, Brian Johnson, and a spot starter when necessary. With Rodriguez back, the spot starter will no longer be an issue. Hector Velazquez, who typically gets the nod, is a fine starter, but he’s better suited for the bullpen. Brian Johnson cannot consistently go deep into games, so the Red Sox should use a Johnson/Velazquez platoon every fifth game.
When Sale finally returns, he will obviously take his spot at the top of the rotation. During the remainder of the regular season, it’s easy to envision Alex Cora using a six-man rotation. All season long, Cora has preached keeping guys fresh, and the best way to do that is with a six-man rotation. Barring a catastrophic collapse, the Red Sox should be able to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs fairly easily. There’s no point in exerting everyone if you don’t have to, especially when the Red Sox rotation is fairly deep.
Steven Wright, meanwhile, should be sent straight to the bullpen. While he is a better pitcher than Brian Johnson, Wright’s best role for this team is in the bullpen. Over the past few years, Wright has been highly susceptible to injury, and thus the strain of starting pitching could likely send him right back on the disabled list. Wright actually said that his most recent knee injury was due to overuse as a starter. If the Sox want Wright in October, they should keep him in the bullpen.
Along with keeping him healthier, putting Wright in the bullpen would help shore up the biggest issue with this team. As a reliever this season, Wright owns a 2.25 ERA in 16 innings. He has a less impressive 4.09 FIP, but that’s not the best stat with which to evaluate Wright. Wright is a knuckleballer, which means he lives to induce weak contact. FIP prioritizes strikeouts, which really isn’t Wright’s game. Regardless of what the FIP says, Wright’s had a great season, especially out of the bullpen.
It’s no secret that the Red Sox bullpen is the biggest flaw on this team. Outside of Ryan Brasier, nobody in the bullpen has played consistent baseball all season long. If Wright can find his old form, he can provide a desperately needed reliable late-inning arm capable of going two or three innings at a time.
Unfiltered Thoughts on the Healthy Red Sox Pitchers
The Boston Red Sox pitchers are getting healthy at just the right time. Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright will immediately help solidify the rotation and bullpen, which should go a long way towards shoring up a struggling pitching staff.
Once Chris Sale returns, this team goes back to being completely healthy and operational. In order to minimize the risk of re-injury, Alex Cora will likely establish a six-man rotation to keep all starting arms fresh, at least until the Red Sox clinch the division. Once that happens, the Red Sox will probably rest most of their postseason starters and let the young kids pitch.