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.

Carson Smith Undergoes Tommy John Surgery

Red Sox reliever Carson Smith underwent Tommy John Surgery on Tuesday, and will not return during the 2016 season. This could be a big blow for Boston, which loses a key bullpen arm just as the season is about to really heat up, and will now have to explore other options for the late innings.

Carson Smith

Smith, a promising 26-year old hurler, was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in the Wade Miley trade last December. He struck out 92 batters in 70 inning last season, and pitched to a 2.31 ERA. The Red Sox were keen to fortify an inconsistent bullpen, and Carson Smith was deemed a major upgrade. In an ideal world, he was slated to join Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa in setting up games for Craig Kimbrel, giving Boston a formidable bullpen to compete with any other in baseball.

Those plans were jeopardized in spring training, when Smith endured tightness in his right forearm. He was diagnosed with a muscle strain, but recovered to join the Red Sox in May. However, after just three appearances, doctors determined that Carson required Tommy John Surgery, which could put him out of action for up to eighteen months.

Options to replace Carson Smith

Obviously, the Red Sox haven’t felt the full benefit of Carson Smith this season, but his absence still creates a headache for Dave Dombrowski. The President of Baseball Operations has already said that the Red Sox are in no hurry to search for solutions on the trade market, given the strong performances from guys like Heath Hembree, Tommy Layne and Robbie Ross. Indeed, the Red Sox currently rank seventh in bullpen ERA throughout Major League Baseball, so the current crop has done a very solid job.

However, Carson Smith figured to be a major contributor throughout the summer and down the stretch. He had overpowering stuff and the potential to be another premier arm shutting down games for Boston in the late innings. Now, that weapon has been removed, at least for 2016, and with all due respect, nobody in the current bullpen really stands out as a serious candidate to take on a more important setup role. The Sox are still in good shape with Tazawa and Kimbrel, but Uehara is 41-years old and his 2016 statistics show considerable decline compared to his career averages.

Therefore, as we move towards the trade deadline, expect the Red Sox to be active in the market for relief help. They’re not totally desperate for another arm, which should leave plenty of room in negotiations and hopefully enable Dombrowski to acquire a setup man at a fair price. While they never gain much attention, trades for relievers are very popular in mid-season, and there should be no shortage of options a month or two from now. Relievers are highly expendable, especially for non-contending teams, so the Red Sox may be in a strong bargaining position.

This news sucks for Carson Smith, and we wish him a speedy recovery. It would have been great to see him add length to the Red Sox bullpen this summer and potentially through the playoffs. Yet, while his absence is less than ideal in the short-term, Dombrowski shouldn’t have a problem finding a replacement, which will be required as Boston eyes a serious run at October.

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?

Clay Buchholz Passed the Eye Test

I’ve seen Clay Buchholz pitch twice in person now. Once was back on May 21st against the Texas Rangers, when he threw 7.1 innings, struck out 4 and gave up 3 runs in a loss. A valiant effort, but a loss nonetheless. The Red Sox offense did nothing to pick him up that night, so Clay Buchholz couldn’t be blamed for everything on that particular night, as he did everything possible to keep the team in the game.

The 2nd time was last night, and it was a gem. His performance a couple of weeks ago Clay Buchholz was nothing like last night, though, when he shut down the Twins, scattering 3 hits over 8 innings and striking out 8 batters, while only walking 2.

Clay Buchholz was nothing short of perfect last night, and he needed to be, since the offense couldn’t do much of anything last night. That is, until Rusney Castillo drove in the lone run in the 7th last night with an RBI single. That was enough for Clay, as he didn’t need the extra help, at least on offense.

The only scare came in the 8th inning when Aaron Hicks drilled a ball to the right field wall, which Castillo made the play on thankfully. Other than that, the Twins never really looked like a threat offensively. They couldn’t put anything together, and that was thanks to Clay Buchholz’s brilliance on the mound.

The only thing stopping Clay from completing the shutout was that he wasn’t 100%, apparently. At least, that’s what Clay himself told the media after the game. Per the Boston Globe:

“Definitely didn’t feel 100 percent, but it wasn’t a reason for me to skip a start,” Buchholz said. “I told them I’d go out there, give them what I got, and fortunately I was able to give them eight innings. If it was any other day and I felt good and that’s how the game was going, I wouldn’t have let him take me out of the game. I was gassed. I’d rather give Koji a clean inning to work with rather than pull me in an inning with a runner on second base.”

If that’s the case, it makes Clay’s performance more impressive. He’s shown on more than one occasion this season that he’s capable of these types of performances. He just needs to do it a little more consistently.

2015 MLB Season Outlook: Joe Kelly

joe kelly

Yes, the 2015 MLB season is finally here folks. The Boston Red Sox outlook for the upcoming season is different depending on who you ask, but they all seem to agree two things: Boston’s offense is going to be one of the best in the game and their pitching staff is going to be a bit of a question mark. There is one guy in fact that I’d like to take a deeper look into: Joseph Kelly Jr. or, as we know him, Joe Kelly.

Kelly will be starting his 2015 campaign on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Joe KellyMarch 27th, meaning he will be able to pitch on April 11th. Kelly is dealing with a bicep injury. When healthy, the sky is the limit in my opinion for this kid. Kelly was one of the top pitching prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system before being dealt to Boston last season. Kelly has a steady repertoire of pitches including a power sinker that can top-out at 96 MPH and locates the inside of the plate very well. Kelly, to date, has a career record of 21-16 including an impressive 3.41 ERA. Kelly’s best season by far was his 2013 campaign. Kelly posted a 2.69 ERA to compliment his 10-5 record. Kelly appeared in 37 games for the Cardinals, while starting in 15 of those. Kelly was also slated to start Game 7 of the World Series against Boston, but we all know it didn’t get to that point. Arm and elbow injuries cut down a lot of his workload in St. Louis making it hard for him to ever establish himself as a viable starter.

There is no doubt that Kelly does not lack in confidence; he has already come out and stated he will win the AL Cy-Young. “Yeah, I’m going to win this year. That’s what I told the radio guys,” Kelly said Saturday at the Baseball Winter Weekend at Foxwoods Resort Casino. “They didn’t believe me, so sucks to be them.”

My predictions for Joe Kelly in 2015—31 games started, 15-7 record, 2.99 ERA and 165 strikeouts.

Clay Buchholz: Head games

Clay BuchholzOkay, let’s cut to the chase shall we? Clay Buchholz has been absolutely horrendous this season, no arguing that. Last season, Clay came out of the gates strong and it seemed nothing could slow him down. Then a mid season injury struck, he came back and still pitched solid down the stretch for the Sox. Playoff time was a bit of a different story for Buchholz. You could tell in his few postseason starts that Clay wasn’t the same, he labored to get through a solid 5 innings for the most part. That was okay though, we knew that maybe he was still a little banged up, but at least he was keeping the team in position to win. It seemed easy to think that he just needed the offseason to recover and he’d be back at the top of his form that we’ve expected since that no hitter in 2007.

Now the story that is coming out after his recent shelling down in Atlanta is that the right hander lost 7 pounds during his outing?? I’m sorry Farrell, but I don’t think I can believe that utter nonsense. On top of that, it seems that poor Clay has hyperextended his knee and has landed back on the DL. Seriously? The problem with Clay isn’t just his body, it’s the fact that he’s the softest guy on the staff. He needs to be coddled like a baby after he sucks. There has always been a reason for a poor effort by Clay, never that he just didn’t have it. So it comes as no shock to me that Clay has another poor outing and of course lands back on the DL.

Sorry Clay, at the top of your game you’re a great pitcher, but when will that be? Your seasons are so up and down from year to year, you always have an excuse. We HATE excuses in Boston. You’ll probably go on to have a decent career, but I don’t think it’s a path the Red Sox should take.

After this season Boston should look to part ways for good with Clay Buchholz. The Red Sox put up with antics from guys like Manny Ramirez for one reason, he was an elite player. Clay is a good pitcher when he’s on, but why should we have to put up with him and his buddies sleeping over at Fenway Park because he can’t walk/drive a mile to his house? That would have been fine, but Clay got absolutely hammered on the mound on Patriot’s Day. This leaves us no option to wonder what actually went on at Fenway that night? The Red Sox need consistency on the mound and they just aren’t going to get it right now with Clay Buchholz.

It seems that the Red Sox will always need to worry what’s going on inside Clay’s head.