Kelly the Key to Red Sox Rotation

The Red Sox rotation is an interesting collection of starters. There’s David Price, the obvious ace and former Cy Young winner (not to mention the richest pitcher in history). Behind him are potential number twos Rick Porcello and Clay Buchholz, who have frustrated Boston fans and media with their uneven performance. There’s Steven Wright, the enigmatic knuckle-baller who’s been the team’s best pitcher thus far in 2016. Then there’s Joe Kelly the key to Red Sox rotation.

Is Joe Kelly the Key to Red Sox Rotation?

It might seem crazy to call a number five starter the key to any rotation, let alone one of a first-place team, but that’s what Kelly isKelly the Key to Red Sox Rotation. When he;s right, the Red Sox go five deep in the rotation, with each member capable of churning out a quality start on any given night. But when he’s not (or hurt), the back of their rotation suddenly looks much thinner. That much was clear during Kelly’s month-long absence earlier this year due to a shoulder impingement, during which time Sean O’Sullivan started twice. No offense to O’Sullivan, but he should not be starting for a postseason contender or any team that wants to win..

At least you know what you”re getting out of O’Sullivan, even if it isn’t much. The same can not be said of Kelly, who like his rotationmate Clay Buchholz is still an unknown quantity despite spending several years in Major League rotations and possessing dazzling stuff. While both have shown flashes of greatness, neither has evolved into the consistently great starter everyone hoped they’d become based on their obvious talent. Most recently, Kelly showed how dominant he can be in his return from the disabled list last Saturday, when he limited a red-hot Indians lineup to one hit over 6 2/3 innings.

The problem with Kelly is that he’s just as likely to endure a stinker. In his first three starts of 2016  he had more earned runs than innings pitched and nearly as many walks as strikeouts. If anything, his month-long DL stint was a welcome reprieve, allowing him to work on becoming the pitcher who finished last year 7-0 with a 2.35 ERA over his final eight starts rather than the trainwreck with a 6.11 ERA in 17 starts leading up to that run.

Which version of Kelly is going to show up this year remains to be seen. The Red Sox would like to open their series against the Blue Jays with a win tomorrow, but for that to happen they’ll likely need a good start from Kelly. In fact, they’re going to need quite a few of those from him in order to get where they want to go this year. That might be asking too much of the erratic 27-year-old, and if it is then they should stick him in the bullpen where belongs and trade for a more established starter. They might even explore trading Joe Kelly the key to Red Sox rotation.

Red Sox Quarterly Review

If you can believe it, we’re already a quarter of the way through the baseball season. That means there’s still a lot of games left to be played, but there’s also a considerable amount already in the books–enough to draw somewhat meaningful conclusions from. With that in mind, it’s time for the Red Sox quarterly review.

Red Sox Quarterly Review: Mostly Good…

A great lineup can carry a team all the way to the championship, so it’s encouraging that people are already ranking Boston’s offense among the best of all-time (and that’s despite a disappointing start from Mookie Betts and next to nothing from Christian Vazquez)Red Sox Quarterly Review. The Sox currently lead the MLB in just about every hitting category under the sun, and after taking a quick look around the diamond it’s not hard to see why. Hanley Ramirez is productive again after injuries sabotaged his season last year, and Dustin Pedroia is hitting as well as he ever has. Xander Bogaerts continues to grow offensively, Travis Shaw has been a revelation at third, and Brock Holt is off to one of his patented hot starts in left.

Given all that firepower, it’s surprising that Boston’s two best hitters have been a 40-year-old DH and the team’s number-nine hitter. The former, David Ortiz, is having one of the best seasons ever for a player his age, making his decision to retire after this year look incredibly premature. Perhaps his wisdom is rubbing off on Jackie Bradley, Jr., who has finally learned how to hit at age 26, which is around the same age Ortiz emerged as a dominant force. Bradley’s hitting just as well as Ortiz, and while his breakout may not be sustainable, he doesn’t have to hit anywhere near this good to be valuable thanks to his stellar defense in center.

Boston’s also benefited from similarly unexpected breakthroughs in the  rotation. Knuckleballer Steven Wright has been the team’s best pitcher thus far, something nobody saw coming from  a 31-year-old with 11 career starts under his belt before this year. He’s had help from Rick Porcello, who remembered how to throw his sinker after over-relying on his fastball last year and is pitching like the number-two Ben Cherington signed him to be.

As expected, the bullpen’s been dynamite with Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel nailing down games. Just wait until Carson Smith gets back in the swing of things.

…But Some Bad

With Boston leading baseball in every conceivable offensive metric and mere percentage points out of first in the AL East, there’s not a whole lot of bad in this Red Sox quarterly review. But the Red Sox haven’t been perfect, otherwise they’d be 41-0 and I’d be writing about Joe Kelly’s Cy Young chances. But I’m not, because Kelly has been hurt and terrible. Clay Buchholz has also been terrible, but at least he’s not hurt (yet).

Boston’s biggest concern has to be its $31 million ace, who hasn’t pitched like one this year. David Price has been erratic, capable of overpowering opponents with his electric stuff but also struggling against weak lineups. His peripherals suggest he’s going to be fine, but the fact remains that he has not provided a good return on investment so far.

Neither has Boston’s $17 million third baseman, who won’t be manning the hot corner anytime soon after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in early May. Pablo Sandoval’s contract is looking like a sunk cost, but so did John Lackey’s before he righted the ship.

Red Sox Quarterly Review Grade: A

With a prolific offense, solid rotation and shutdown bullpen, Boston looks like postseason contenders.

What Happens in the Boston Red Sox Rotation?

Eduardo Rodriguez landed on the 15-day DL right before the season with subluxation of his patellar tendon in his right knee and has already made two rehab starts. He is due to start one more after throwing 84 pitches in his last outing, which lasted six innings with justRed Sox Rotation three earned runs (all in the first inning) with three strikeouts. The 23-year-old retired 16 of the final 18 batters he faced and will have one last start May 8th before potentially returning to the Boston Red Sox rotation on May 13th.

The all but expected conclusion is that Rodriguez will take the spot of Henry Owens in the rotation due to the fact that Owens has struggled in two of his outing with his pitch count. In his first start, the youngster lasted just 3.1 innings with four walks and four strikeouts in a no-decision. After a five-inning no-decision against the New York Yankees, the 23-year-old went just three innings while walking six and allowing two runs against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. Owens has been lackluster since is major league debut in 2015 and the 88 MPH fastball seems to not be cutting it against the tougher lineups of the majors.

With Rodriguez slotted to take the one real question mark of the Boston Red Sox rotation, what will happen when Joe Kelly returns?

Is Joe Kelly Out of the Red Sox Rotation?

Kelly had an encouraging bullpen session on Tuesday and looks to have a rehab outing on Friday, May 6th, at Triple-A Pawtucket. John Farrell expects him to make two rehab starts, but that does not mean he will be ready to go right after those two outings. If he is healthy and his shoulder responds well after both appearances, then Kelly could be back in the thick of things in the Red Sox rotation.

However, the only other spot the Red Sox can even take a look at is the up-and-down veteran Clay Buchholz. Buchholz had pitched poorly up until the seven inning performance with just a two-run homer in the first inning off the bat of Jose Abreu blemishing the outing. The 31-year-old’s ERA dropped from 6.51 to 5.71 with the outing and this start could be the start of one of one of those ones Buchholz gets on before he gets hurt. Last season, he went through a 12-start stretch with a an ERA just above 2.00 before getting hurt.

My suggestion is to keep Buchholz in the rotation to build his value and trade him before that inevitable injury that derails his trade value and his time with the Red Sox. This leaves Kelly the odd man out of the rotation, but the Red Sox could use him as an arm out of the bullpen. The bullpen depth has already increased with the return of Carson Smith and Kelly is another electric arm to use as a middle reliever if the Red Sox starters fail to make it through six innings on any given night.

Porcello Pitching Like an Ace

April baseball is always full of surprises, good and bad. David Price turning into a very expensive pumpkin? Beyond bad. Rick Porcello pitching like an ace? Completely and utterly fantastic.

When the Red Sox signed Price to a seven-year, $217 million contract last winter, they gotRick Porcello Pitching like an ace one of baseball’s finest pitchers in return. In a rotation without a clear number one starter, he immediately became Boston’s undisputed ace.

Over the first month of the season, however, Price has been anything but. After getting knocked around again on Sunday, his ERA now stands at an unsightly 6.14—surely not what the Red Sox were hoping for when they made Price the “richest pitcher in baseball history” according to the Lowell Sun.

With Price scuffling, another pitcher has stepped in to lead Boston’s rotation. Enter Rick Porcello, Price’s former teammate in Detroit who now finds himself flanking the 2012 AL Cy Young winner yet again.

Only this time, the roles are reversed. Porcello has asserted himself as Boston’s top starter in his second year with the club while Price is still finding his groove..

Porcello was one of the American League’s best pitchers in April, winning all five of his starts while compiling a 2.76 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 6.00 K/B ratio. He completed at least six innings each time out, saving Boston’s battered bullpen in the process. More importantly, he was lights-out, holding opponents scoreless in In two of his outings and two-hitting the Blue Jays in a third.

Porcello pitching like an ace extends farther back than April, however. Porcello was arguably Boston’s best pitcher in the second half last year, posting a 3.49 ERA after Independence Day. He was even better down the stretch with a 3.14 ERA over his final eight starts.

Is Porcello Pitching the Best Games of His Career?

Between those last eight starts of 2015 and his first five of ’16, Porcello has put together the best run of his career. He’s the only pitcher in baseball to log at least six innings in each of his past 13 starts, over which he’s sported a 3.00 ERA and 5.47 K/BB ratio. Since coming off the Disabled List in late August, Porcello has looked like a completely different pitcher, striking out more than a batter per inning after averaging just 5.5 K/9 in his six seasons with Detroit.

Once a ground-baller who rarely struck anyone out, Porcello’s now a whiff-machine. He’s gone from middle-of-the-rotation innings-eater to staff ace almost overnight–a truly stunning transformation. He’s relying on his sinker again after getting away from it in the early part of 2015, mixing it with nasty change-ups and cutters. The result has been a whole new pitcher; Rick Porcello 2.0.

Of course, Porcello pitching like an ace for a month doesn’t mean he’s supplanted Price, at least not yet. Price is still the ace because he’s been one in the past and is getting paid like one, though that could change if both keep pitching as they have in April. Price has been snake-bitten early on and will likely surpass his rotation-mate before long, but Porcello should be a strong number-two going forward.

That’s what the Red Sox were hoping for when they signed him to that $82.5 million extension, wasn’t it?

Should Red Sox Nation Give Up on Clay Buchholz?

At what point do the Red Sox give up on Clay Buchholz? After years of injury and inconsistency, the veteran pitcher seems to have bottomed out, and it isn’t pretty for a franchise and fan base relying on him to be a solid number two starter in a dismal rotation.

There’s a sense of impending doom whenever anybody not named David Price takesgive up on Clay Buchholz the ball, but that feeling is more intense with Clay Buchholz, who has delivered only sporadically on the immense promise shown in his rookie year. Of course, he has displayed occasional splashes of brilliance down the years, but a career WHIP of 1.304 doesn’t lie. This is a below average pitcher who essentially forces his team to score at least five runs to have any chance of winning a ballgame.

Last year, Buchholz flattered to deceive somewhat, as his 3.26 ERA in 18 starts papered over what felt like a laborious campaign. However, at the start of this season, his performance has been even more concerning. Buchholz was shelled over four innings in his first start, as the Indians knocked him around for five runs, before the Orioles matched that total with help from two mammoth home runs on Tuesday. Right now, Clay has a 10.00 ERA, which is ugly no matter how small the sample size, and no matter whether the guy has a history of slow starts.

Are we really still doing this? Is the front office genuinely serious about this rotation? I like Clay Buchholz and want the guy to succeed, but it just doesn’t seem likely at this point. He will be 32-years old in August and has yet to throw more than 189 innings in a single season. In fact, he averages just 125 innings and 20 starts per year. Being realistic, and removing all sentiment, that simply isn’t good enough for a number two starter on the Boston Red Sox. That’s a simple fact, and it needs addressing.

At this point, bringing Buchholz back for another season in such an important role seems like a mistake. Dave Dombrowski did well to sign Price and trade for Craig Kimbrel, instantly upgrading the staff, but there is still so much more to be done, as the opening days of this season have demonstrated. The Red Sox have been very good offensively, averaging almost six runs per game and showing real heart to fight back from losing positions, only for the pitching to falter. Naturally, no fan base can expect a perfect blend of offense and run prevention – this is baseball, after all – but Red Sox Nation still demands better.

Once a precious prospect, Clay Buchholz has unfortunately become the face of everything that is wrong with the Red Sox pitching staff. Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello must also improve hugely, but in all honesty, they’ve never shown enough capability to fuel immense frustration. Buchholz, meanwhile, once promised so much, only to break hearts at every turn. For many years, Red Sox fans have waited for him to put it all together for an extended stretch, to deliver a full season of health and dominance. It just never happens. The wait goes on. Sooner or later, this madness has to end.