Candidates for the Boston Red Sox Rotation

Eduardo Rodriguez
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With the MLB season set to begin in less than two weeks, the Boston Red Sox starting rotation finds itself in a tough situation. Chris Sale had Tommy John surgery this offseason and will be out for the entire 2020 season. David Price was traded along with Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Rick Porcello signed with the New York Mets. This leaves Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and newly acquired Martin Perez as the only three pitchers with a secure spot in the starting five.

Secured Spots

Eduardo Rodriguez recently tested positive for COVID-19 and is doubtful for Opening Day. As of now, Eovaldi is lined up as the Opening Day starter for the Red Sox. While Rodriguez is a bright spot in the rotation, coming off a breakout season that saw him finish sixth for the American League Cy Young award, the same can’t be said about Eovaldi or Perez.

Eovaldi can be one of the better pitchers in the league when he’s healthy, but staying healthy has been a big problem for him during his career. He’s pitched more than 150 innings in a season twice in his eight-year career, and he pitched just a third of the season last year. The Red Sox are rolling the dice and hoping a 60 game season will benefit him.

Perez, on the other hand, has been able to stay healthy. He’s started at least 29 games in three of the last four seasons. His problem, however, is the results of those starts. Over the last two years, Perez has a 5.49 ERA and a 1.608 WHIP. Both rank last in the league among pitchers with at least 250 innings pitched.

The tough part is that relying on Eovaldi and Perez as number two and three starters isn’t even the biggest problem on the rotation. The last two spots are still a complete question mark with a couple of candidates competing for it. The Red Sox have a group of pitchers whom they’re considering for these spots. Among them are Ryan Weber, Collin McHugh, Chris Mazza, Jeffrey Springs, and Brian Johnson.

Leading Candidates

Ryan Weber is currently the favorite to land one of these two spots. His track record isn’t the most promising, he has a career 5.04 ERA in 114 innings of work in his career. He has a slow fastball, averaging around 88.4 MPH in 2019, which he complements with his curveball and changeup. Weber was impressive in a limited time during spring training. He pitched nine innings, allowed no earned runs, and struck out 11 batters with no walks. With a very thin rotation, the Red Sox are likely going to trust Weber to start the season as the number four guy. However, given his track record, the team will probably have him on a short leash.

Out of all the candidates, Collin McHugh has the most MLB experience as a starter. He was a starter for the Houston Astros from 2014-2017, where he posted a 3.70 ERA over 102 starts. After missing time due to an injury on his shoulder, McHugh started to pitch out of the bullpen in 2018. The Astros tried him as a starter again to begin the 2019 season, but after 41 innings he had a 6.37 ERA and pitched the rest of the season as a reliever. The Red Sox are unsure if he’ll be ready to begin the season, as an elbow injury had him sidelined. Manager Ron Roenicke says that in order for that to happen, McHugh will need to progress much faster.

Opener Strategy

Chaim Bloom saw firsthand how the Tampa Bay Rays revolutionized the opener strategy. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Red Sox utilize one of the spots by implementing this strategy during the season. Chris Cotillo of Masslive reports that Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs have impressed the coaches during the intrasquad games. Both of them have experience starting in the minors. In MLB, however, they’ve only started two games combined. Brian Johnson, another contender, has had some experience as a starter with the Red Sox. All three are candidates to be used as openers this season.

Other than these candidates the Red Sox could still sign someone from free agency. They’ve has been connected to Zack Godley, who was recently released by the Detroit Tigers and has MLB experience as a starter. It’s definitely going to be an uphill battle, but Chaim Bloom has the opportunity to get creative and try to replicate some of the magic he created in his time with the Rays.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images