Sox Need a Fifth Starting Option

With Joe Kelly having a very tough outing against the Toronto Blue Jays, giving up 5 earned runs in 4.2 innings pitched, the Sox need a fifth starting option. With the recent demotion of starter Clay Buchholz to the bullpen, Kelly was expected to step up and replace him. Kelly may be a little better than Buchholz, which isn’t saying much. The Sox are in desperate need of a fifth option behind David Price, Rick Porcello, Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez. While the trade deadline is the most likely scenario for adding a fifth and likely a sixth starter, what should the Sox do for now?

The problem with the Sox minor league system right now regarding starting pitching is thatJoe Kelly they don’t have any pitcher major league ready that’ll pitch better than either Buchholz or Kelly. The one option they could turn to is lefty Brian Johnson. Johnson is really not much of an upgrade and the lack of major league ready arms down on the farm is an issue for this team.

Johnson has a 4.64 ERA at Pawtucket and has walked 22 batters in just 33 innings, reminiscent of fellow lefty prospect Henry Owens. While he has strikeout potential, 28 strikeouts in those innings, the lack of command just won’t cut it. Johnson may very well get the call if Kelly’s struggles persist but it will likely just be another disaster. Another option could be moving Matt Barnes back into the rotation, not a good baseball move though.

Barnes has been stellar in the bullpen this year and the fact that he was formerly a starting pitcher may have some lobbying for him to get another chance. This would also end up being a disaster as Barnes lacks an arsenal of pitches and relies on his fastball around 70% of the time. Without secondary pitches, there is little chance of succeeding at the big league level as a starter. So where do the sox go from here?

With an offense that is putting up gaudy numbers, the Sox have the luxury of waiting until the deadline to get improved starting pitching. Every fifth day the Sox are capable of scoring in double digits, eliminating the importance of pitching. With this, the Sox will lack a decent fifth option but their elite offense is more than capable of bailing out whoever the number five starter is every fifth day.

Henry Owens to Stay in Rotation

Henry Owens was (mostly) not at fault after Tuesday’s blowout 13-3 loss to the New York Yankees. He left after 5+ solid innings with runners on 2nd and 3rd, 0 outs, and a 2-1 lead. The implosion that followed was largely a result of bad bullpen work, starting with Robbie Ross and going downhill from there.

At one point, Owens had set down 12 in a row after struggling in the first inning, when he Henry Owensthrew 34 pitches. He ended up throwing 96 pitches and striking out 5, and secured his place in the rotation for the time being according. Part of it was the flashes of promise he showed, but most of it was due to the team’s circumstances—both Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello are on the DL, so Henry Owens will have a shot to show more of what he can do.

John Farrell came away from Henry Owens’ start with good things to say as well, telling the Boston Globe that Henry Owens seemed to keep the emotion of the moment in check and made some quality pitches. To Owens’ credit, Farrell is correct in his assessment in this case. The pressure of a playoff race may be off, but making your major league debut against the Yankees in New York is always a tough task and Henry Owens handled it pretty well.

I was personally pretty happy with what I saw from Henry Owens, as he did show that he had pretty promising stuff. His change up looked pretty good at times and he mixed it in well with his fastball. He also did well to pitch out of a tough first inning and limit the damage, and to settle in after that tough first inning. He showed us a good glimpse of things to come. I’m not going to go so far as to say he’s the team’s savior, but he’s one of the Red Sox top prospects for a reason, and he showed us why.

He joins Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson as the 3rd lefty to make his major league debut this season. Nowhere to go but up from here.

John Farrell Calls Out Pablo Sandoval’s Weight

The 2015 Red Sox cannot be summed up in just a sentence of phrase. The frustration from the fan base and players has now a visible effect on manager John Farrell. Farrell is usually a stay the course, the players will figure it out, type manager but over the last week he has not shied away from holding his players accountable.

David Ortiz did not run out a ground ball last week and Farrell went out of his way to Pablo Sandovalmention it. You can now see Farrell has grown frustrated with the pitching staff he was handed as well. Rick Porcello who continues to trot out to the rubber every fifth day and continues to not get out of the fifth inning almost every start. John Farrell has floated out the idea that Brian Johnson and Henry Owens will get a look in the rotation and soon. Farrell seemed to float out the idea of roster moves coming as well, although that is necessary when your starter only goes two innings.

The main frustration that was picked up from John Farrell’s press conference last night was Pablo Sandoval’s weight problem. Sandoval left the game due to dehydration and Farrell said his weight needs “addressing”. The Red Sox knew what they were getting into Sandoval this off-season, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was a continued critic of Sandoval’s weight during his time in San Francisco. He would continue to show up to spring training over the weight the Giants wanted him at, but he would continue to perform in October so they took the good with the bad.

This year Sandoval has not looked like a $19 million player because he is not a $19 million player. It made sense for the Red Sox to sign Sandoval, but to expect him to be a middle of the order force was wrong, he is simply not that player. His career high in home runs is 25, and has been in the teens in home runs the last three years.

There is no question Sandoval’s weight is a problem but the elephant in the room, no pun intended, has rarely been brought up this season. If you watched the Sunday Night Baseball broadcast former Red Sox pitcher and ESPN commentator Curt Schilling brought up the fact that Sandoval has definitely gained weight this season. Maybe motivation is a problem, with the team losing. He is said to be with his friends Hanley Ramirez and David Ortiz, so that should help him no?

The Red Sox need to figure out Sandoval’s weight problem before the end of this season. It will be on the minds of many this off-season. What will Sandoval look like come spring training? Will he be moving to first base? Those questions need to be answered soon and Sandoval needs to react the to comments of John Farrell.

Henry Owens, Brian Johnson Soon to Join Rotation

Prior to a third straight pitching debacle against the Chicago White Sox, manager John Farrell just casually mentioned to the media that both Brian Johnson and Henry Owens should get the call in the next week. These starters are ranked No. 4 and No. 5 respectively overall in the Boston Red Sox farm system

“We’re going to stay on turn through the weekend,” Farrell said according to NESN’s Ricky Brian Johnsondoyle. “Monday being the off-day, we’ve got the ability to adjust going forward. But as we’re taking a look at (recently recalled outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.), our goal and our intent is to see Brian Johnson and probably Henry Owens at some point. So, all that is on the horizon.”

With pitchers Joe Kelly (2-6, 5.94 ERA), Justin Masterson (4-2, 5.62 ERA) and Rick Porcello (5-11, 5.81 ERA) struggling for most of the season and knuckleballer Steve Wright being a 30-year-old journeyman who is more of a spot starter than a long-term option in the rotation, it makes sense to bring up the young pitchers to see if they should be kept or dealt this off season.

Eduardo Rodriguez has proven that he has some work to do, but has pitched admirably while up with the Boston Red Sox this season to the tune of a 4.26 ERA in 11 starts to go along with a 6-3 record and a 52:20 K:BB ratio. The 22-year-old should be in the starting rotation to start the 2016 season

The Red Sox already got a look at Johnson last week as he went 4.1 innings while allowing four earned runs. He may have walked four batters in the outing and thrown more curve balls than fastballs, but the prospect proved he could pitch even with less than stellar stuff on the mound. The fastball topped out at 90 and he can’t blow away anyone, but he showed strong composure for a 24-year-old.

As for Owens, the 23-year-old had a tough go of it to start the 2015 season in Pawtucket, but is 1-4 with a 2.86 ERA over his last 10 starts. Over that span, he has walked just 18 and struck out 54 in 63 innings of work, including a couple nine strikeout contests on July 10th and July 18th in which he allowed three earned runs over 13 innings of work.

The Red Sox need to see which of these lefties will be a mainstay going forward and what better time than now when the team is all but mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.

Brian Johnson to Make MLB Debut

After months of hoping and wishing by the fans, top Red Sox prospect Brian Johnson will make his major league debut early next week after the team had to place #1 starter Clay Buchholz on the 15-Day DL, per ESPN.

Right now, it’s possible he’ll start the last game of the series against the Los Angeles Brian JohnsonAngels of Anaheim on Monday—or open the series against the Houston Astros on Tuesday, manager John Farrell told ESPN. Farrell wouldn’t say who the other starter would be, but he did rule out Justin Masterson, who he said would remain in the bullpen.

Right now, the best guess would be Steven Wright. Joe Kelly came out of last start for Pawtucket in the first inning after being drilled with a line drive to the forearm on July 9th. That would probably kill any chance of him coming back to the big-league Red Sox for the time being.

But I digress. Back to Brian Johnson. Fans have been clamoring for his call up with the Red Sox pitching staff struggling this season, and it’s easy to see why. He has an 8-6 record for the AAA PawSox with a 2.73 ERA in 85.2 innings pitched. Personally, I think he’s ready for his shot, and with our ace at the moment on the DL (Clay Buchholz), it’s a great time for him to come up and try to make an impression on the big stage. I hope he can come up and be successful, because the Red Sox pitching staff could use a boost right now. This could be a crucial next couple of weeks for Brian because the Red Sox are struggling and he has a chance at the very least to show the fans a glimpse of what he can do. If he can help the team get back on a winning track, all the better, but I don’t think it’s fair to him to put that on his shoulders right now.

For now, I’ll settle for a few solid starts from Brian Johnson.

Red Sox Rotation for Angels Series

The Red Sox, after a four day layoff, head to the west coast to faces the Angels this weekend for a four game series that carries over to Monday. As the Red Sox prepare for this series, John Farrell set his rotation for the first three games out in the City of Angels.

Wade Miley, who closed out the first half, will open the second half—pitching on regular rest. Rick Porcello will get the start Saturday night while Eduardo Rodriguez will take the mound on Sunday. Red Sox RotationNo starter has been announced for Monday as of yet, but likely Brian Johnson will be making his major league debut or Justin Masterson will take the ball again.

The time is now for the Red Sox to make a statement. After a series with the Angels the Sox will travel to Houston for three games before returning home. The Sox took 2 of 3 from Houston just last weekend. The Sox sit at 42-47; not exactly where they should be after the off-season they had. Being 5 games under .500 does have them in last place, but they are only 6.5 games behind the first place Yankees.

The trade deadline is only two weeks away and label of buyer or seller is something the Red Sox have embraced. Clay Buchholz’ injury hurts the Red Sox in the present and the future—he could help them keep winning or help them get some good pieces back at the trade deadline. The extent of his injury is unknown as is how long he will be out for, but the Red Sox rotation likely will not stack up without Buchholz entering it again sometime soon.

Rick Porcello needs to continue to keep the ball down. Ryan Hanigan will likely catch Porcello for the rest of the season as they try to replicate his most recent start where he gave up two runs and lowered his ERA to a still high 5.90. The time is now for Porcello to make a statement that he can be the pitcher the Red Sox acquired to help anchor the top of the rotation.