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.

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.

Brian Johnson Named an International League All-Star

While the Pawtucket Red Sox roster continues to get purged while the Red Sox look for answers with their major league club, sending the Route-95 shuttle bus back and forth, PawSox pitcher Brian Johnson received some good news on Thursday as he was named to the International League All-Star team. The AAA All-Star Game is July 15 in Omaha home of the Omaha Storm Chasers of the Pacific Coast League.

Johnson has enjoyed a great season with the PawSox with a record of 8-5 in 15 starts. Brian JohnsonJohnson is tied for the league lead in wins and is 5th in ERA at 2.68. If it wasn’t for Eduardo Rodriguez it is likely Brian Johnson would be up with the big league club right now. Johnson another lefty, who mixes all of his pitches well without overpowering stuff, will likely see a look in the second half of the season.

With Joe Kelly now his PawSox teammate Johnson will likely see a look if Rick Porcello continues to struggle or if Justin Masterson has a repeat of his early season struggles. Johnson, will be 25 in December so he is entering the prime of his career where many players like Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts are already in the big leagues at 22.

Johnson, came out of his most recent start with the PawSox after five pitches issuing a walk. There was cause for concern but it is believed he had an illness that caused him to be taken out of the game. The PawSox list Zeke Spruill as Thursday’s starting pitcher with no pitcher listed for Friday nights game which could be Johnson if he is deemed ready to pitch. An injury would really be unfortunate for Johnson, as this year he has taken control and passed Henry Owens on the depth chart to get a look with the big league club.

John Farrell has taken notice of Johnson but said nothing has changed as of yet with his rotation. Ben Cherington was in town the last time Johnson pitched so take that as you will.

One other notable named to the International League All-Star team is former PawSox pitcher Michael Bowden who is with the Norfolk Tides, (Orioles AAA) who never really got to make a name for himself with the Red Sox a few years back out of their bullpen.

Justin Masterson Sharp in Latest Rehab Start

As the Red Sox rotation begins to perform they could be faced with a decision soon, on sending a starter to the bullpen. Justin Masterson took the mound for the PawSox on Wednesday afternoon in his latest rehab outing. It was his second rehab start with the PawSox and third overall, after starting for Portland last Friday.

Masterson was sharp on Wednesday while keeping the ball down, something he struggledJustin Masterson with early on in the year up in Boston. Masterson, was among the problem in April and early May when the rotation could not keep the ball down, or get out of six innings. Now that the rotation is starting to look consistent, he may be moved to the bullpen, because Eduardo Rodriguez is not going anywhere. Joe Kelly could be moved to the bullpen if he doesn’t find consistency, and he does miss bats so the bullpen might not be a bad idea.

Masterson made the decision much harder on sending him to the bullpen Wednesday with a stellar performance at McCoy Stadium. Masterson went 6 innings with a line of 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, and 6 K. Among his 6 strikeouts, Masterson struck out a stretch of four out of five Charlotte Knights hitters, who looked over matched. Obviously Masterson has lost velocity and probably won’t return to the mid 90s but if he keeps the ball down he will be most successful.

When the Red Sox return home to Fenway on Friday they will be faced with the decision of activating Masterson. He does have 30 days to spend in the minors, so he could make another rehab start, but that might just delay the decision and cause some friction with him and the staff. Masterson is a veteran who can handle being moved to the bullpen, but he did not seem pleased with being placed on the disabled list in the first place.

They were faced with the decision between moving Steven Wright or Joe Kelly to the bullpen this week as they abandon the six man rotation with some off days coming up. Wright was moved to the bullpen, but Kelly might be so lucky this time when it comes to him and Masterson. Something the Red Sox could also do is option Kelly to Pawtucket to work on consistency as he does have an option remaining, however that is unlikely.

Justin Masterson will be activated from the disabled list soon, but his role is something we all are not aware of yet.

Red Sox Pitching Must Be More Efficient

Red Sox Pitching

Everybody knows the Red Sox pitching has been awful this season. After all, the team has a collective 5.05 ERA, second only to the altitude-challenged Rockies for worst in the Majors. Such a lack of execution is very concerning. But, on a more nuanced level, the Red Sox also seem to be struggling with game-planning and strategic approach. Essentially, they just need to be more economical all around.

In many respects, Joe Kelly is the poster child for the Red Sox’ pitching inefficiency. His most recent outing, against the Blue Jays in Toronto, was a microcosm of what has, thus Red Sox Pitchingfar, been a very disappointing season. Erratic and frustrated, Kelly walked 7 batters and required 113 pitches to get through 5.2 innings. Similarly, against the Yankees five days earlier, he threw 97 pitches in a shortened, 4.2 inning effort.

Such inefficiency is highly unsustainable. When a starter requires 18 pitches, on average, to complete an inning, he isn’t going to stay around for long. Accordingly, the bullpen is forced to work more, which, in turn, presents its own problems of fatigue down the stretch.

Unfortunately, Joe is still a thrower, rather than a pitcher. Yes, he’s finally using his secondary stuff more this season, but, oftentimes, it’s more out of courtesy. At this point, Major League hitters are still content to let his breaking ball pass and, instead, sit on the fastball. As we know, even at 97 or 98 mph, hitters at this level will eventually time any heater if it’s not complimented by an adequate change of pace. Kelly has discovered that the hard way this year.

However, his results at least seem partly skewed by poor game-planning on the part of Red Sox coaches. In a general sense, Boston pitchers seem to lack a clear understanding as to the approach they’re supposed to be taking in games. We’ve seen starters shaking off their battery mate with more regularity this season, and also frequently getting crossed-up. Similarly, alarm bells rang when, during his 7-walk meltdown in Canada, Kelly lost at least two hitters on wild, 3-2 breaking balls. Obviously, a pitcher must vary his patterns, but you would expect Kelly to go with his best pitch in those situations. The fact that he didn’t perhaps illustrates some of the confusion and lack of guidance emanating from the Red Sox camp.

Of course, pitching coach Juan Nieves was fired amid such suggestions last week. Now, Carl Willis, his replacement, will be tasked with giving the Red Sox pitchers a more coherent frame of reference, and a clearer underlining strategy, when they take to the hill.

Red Sox Pitching

A major part of that will also be the continued development of catcher Blake Swihart into a competent pitch-caller and framer. The statistics may not suggest so, but watching Blake regularly, I believe he’s yet to adapt defensively. He’s struggled to get the borderline calls in favor of his pitcher and, as I mentioned earlier, has been crossed-up on more than one occasion. Of course, the guy is only 23 and barely a week into his Major League career. But, if the Sox want to solve their pitching conundrum, Swihart is going to have to learn fast.

Eventually, something has got to give. Either the Red Sox need to simply acquire more efficient pitchers with better command, or they need to put greater emphasis on the improvement of game-planning. Preferably, they would do both. But, whatever they choose, they must do so fast, before time runs out.

Is It Too Early To Call-Up Eduardo Rodriguez?

Eduardo Rodriguez

Justin Masterson goes 5 innings, Wade Milley goes 4 innings, Joe Kelly goes 5 innings. That has been a common theme for those Red Sox starters after the first month of the season. Masterson’s velocity is down and not getting ground balls the team thought he would be getting. Milley’s adjustment to the American League seems to be a big one, although in his last two starts he has kept the team in the game. Kelly continues to miss bats, but also can’t find the plate at times as shown this weekend in Toronto with seven walks on Saturday.

Is it time to start thinking about a change to the rotation? John Farrell seems to think not Eduardo Rodriguezjust yet, but how much more can he tolerate? Juan Nieves lost his job because of these starters inability to get out of jams and to find the plate. Maybe a new pitching coach will do the job at first, but they are who they are; obviously vastly under performing, but there is no ace on this staff.

Trading for Cole Hamels will not solve the pitching rotation problem as he is just one pitcher, and all five have had their troubles in the first month of the season. The minor leagues are stocked with almost ready arms, most notably Eduardo Rodriguez, but is it too early to bring him up?

In five starts with the PawSox this season, Rodriguez, just 22, is 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA. In his most recent start this past weekend in Columbus he allowed 4 run in 5 innings of work walking 2 while striking out 7. Rodriguez had given up just 5 runs total in his previous four starts. Rodriguez only has 6 starts above AA making one for the PawSox last post-season. The Red Sox insisted the Orioles give up Rodriguez in the Andrew Miller trade last July, and so far it has worked out as Rodriguez was having a down year in the minors before coming to the Red Sox.

Only 6 starts above AA doesn’t sound like a pitcher who is ready to face the Yankees in Yankee Stadium or a powerful Blue Jays lineup but, he has shown the Red Sox something early on this season, being able to miss bats and keep runners off base. Would he be better than the bottom of the rotation starters the Sox have now? Maybe. Only time will tell if the patience of John Farrell runs thin and the team turns to more young players who are a part of the future and forced into the present.