Steven Wright Needs A Permanent Rotation Spot

The Boston Red Sox are in a tight battle with the New York Yankees for superiority in the AL East, and that won’t change anytime soon. It’s time to stop letting Drew Pomeranz take the mound and give Steven Wright, one of the league’s only knuckleballers, a permanent spot in the starting rotation.

Steven Wright joined the Red Sox at the trade deadline in 2013. After acquiring the Steven Wrightknuckleballer from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Lars Anderson, the Sox only used Wright in ten contests over his first two seasons with the club. Wright found a niche in 2015 as a reliever, going 5-4 with a 4.09 ERA in 16 appearances. After a last-place finish in the AL East that year, the Red Sox entered 2016 with a revamped starting rotation. Wright was a part of this makeover, and he capitalized on his first season as a full-time starter. In 24 starts, he went 13-6 with a 3.33 ERA, 127 strikeouts, and four complete games. Wright’s breakout 2016 season also landed him a spot on the American League All-Star Team.

After consecutive last-place finishes, the Red Sox went 93-69 in 2016 and looked to have mended their rotation with the signing of David Price, the CY Young season of Rick Porcello, and the rise of Boston’s newest knuckleballer. Wright’s reign was short-lived, however. The following May, he underwent surgery to restore cartilage in his left knee and missed the remainder of 2017.

His problems followed him into the 2018 season. In March, the league suspended Wright for 15 games for violating the MLB’s personal conduct policy. Having completed his suspension on May 14,  Wright returned to his ballclub, but without a starting job. The culprit? Drew Pomeranz, who became a starter in Wright’s absence in 2017.

I will give credit where credit is due. In 2017, Drew Pomeranz looked every bit deserving of a spot in the Red Sox rotation. He went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 174 punchouts and was a key cog in helping the Sox replicate their 2016 record of 93-69. And to begin this season, there was no justifiable reason to demote Pomeranz. He pitched as well as Wright did in his All-Star season, if not better.

Steven Wright Got His Groove Back

But now, over 60 games into the year, Steven Wright needs his spot back. Drew Pomeranz has allowed at least two earned runs in every single one of his starts this season. In eight starts, he is 1-3 with a staggering 6.81 ERA. And most recently, the team placed Pomeranz on the 10-day disabled list with tendinitis in his left bicep. Steven Wright made his first start of 2018 on June 5th against the Detroit Tigers. Throwing seven shutout innings with six strikeouts and just two hits, he reminded everyone what they’d been missing out on. On June 11th, Wright followed it up with another scoreless start against the Baltimore Orioles, surrendering just four hits in six innings of work. The knuckleballer has not allowed a run in 22 consecutive innings, and his ERA is down to 1.21 on the season.

The numbers alone are compelling enough. The knuckleball is a rare commodity in today’s MLB, and Wright’s superior numbers and novelty pitch make him all the more worthy of a starting job for this team.

Drew Pomeranz Should Not Be Starting

It is getting painful to watch Drew Pomeranz pitch every fifth day. Playing the Astros this weekend, it is easy to see the major difference for Houston between this year and last. It’s the Astros dominant rotation. With the addition of Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander now in the fold for the entire season, both of whom seem like early contenders for the Cy-Young award, there isn’t a weak link in their starting 5. For the Red Sox, it is clearly Pomeranz.

Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello all posses Cy-Young award caliber potential.Drew Pomeranz When those three are pitching at their peaks, it is hard to find a better trio in the league. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez seems to be staying healthy, continuously turning in quality starts and now has a 6-1 record. Pomeranz has not had that same reliability.

Last season, Drew Pomeranz looked like the all-star type of pitcher Dave Dombrowski thought he had acquired a year prior when he obtained the lefty from the San Diego Padres in exchange for the promising pitching prospect, Anderson Espinosa. Drew won 17 games for the Red Sox in 2017, as he was the consistent staple in the Boston rotation, along with Cy-Young runner-up Chris Sale. Pomeranz earned the nickname “Big Smooth” as he seemed confident and easy going in pressure situations. His ’12 to 6′ curveball baffled hitters, especially Yankees, as he amassed 174 strikeouts for the year. Ex Boston manager John Farrell, saw enough poise and success from the south-paw he decided to name him the “number 2” starter for the playoffs. Since that postseason start, he has fallen off tremendously.

Drew Pomeranz  is Replaceable

This offseason, the oft-injured Drew Pomeranz again didn’t make his season debut until late April. When he returned, his fastball was noticeably down in velocity. After averaging close to 92 on the radar gun with the pitch last season, it has since dipped to the 88 mph mark. His curveball didn’t have the same prototype bite to it. That late movement to the breaking ball we as fans were accustomed to seeing. Now after eight games started, it is easy to see last season may be an anomaly. Wright should be in the bullpen.

The knuckleballer Wright has been fantastic this season. He has only allowed four runs in 16.0 innings pitched from the pen. The knuckleball seems to regularly find the strike-zone. Alex Cora has leaned on him as the “innings eater” all year. Before Wright went down with an injury in 2016, he earned an all-star nod and was on his way to a dominant season. Wright often has had to pitch in long-relief this year. He routinely comes in as early as the third or fourth innings to replace the struggling Pomeranz. If Wright joins the rotation, then he wouldn’t be in mop-up duty, fewer runs would be given up early and Boston would have a better chance to win.

Stephen Wright Gets A Suspension, But Was It Enough?

Steven Wright will serve a suspension to start the 2018 season. The MLB commissioner’s office decided that Wright deserved a 15-game penalty for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. In my estimation, this is not enough.

Wright was arrested on December 8th after an altercation with his wife. We don’t know allWright of the details but the situation escalated to the point that his wife felt threatened and that’s obviously enough for me to say that this was extremely out of bounds. Police took the pitcher into custody at the couples’ Tennessee home. The charges were misdemeanor domestic assault and preventing a 911 call. He was released from jail the following day on $2,500 bond and the Williamson County Court retired his case. The court will drop the case if he does not commit additional offenses within the next year.

Sure, Wright cooperated with the league office as they investigated the situation. He’s showing remorse and apparently is going through counseling with his wife. He continues to maintain that he did not make any physical contact with his wife, and he’s taking full responsibility for what transpired. This still should not be okay.

Domestic violence is a problem far too often in our world and in sports, it seems to get a pass. When an athlete makes a mistake, too many people back them. The MLB and the Red Sox have stated their disappointment in Wright, but who cares? Fifteen games without pay is a slap on the wrist for something of this magnitude. Aroldis Chapman received a 30-game ban, which is still way too light.

I’m a big believer in second chances and I know people make mistakes, but I think Wright should have to deal with a team releasing him over this. He should have to sit for a while and focus on the important things before getting back to baseball. At the very least he should get a more hefty punishment than this. It’s extremely disappointing and frankly, I don’t want to have to root for the guy all summer long. Let’s just hope he makes the right changes and moves on to be a better person.

Bullpen Woes Continue to Plague Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox are currently in Detroit for a four-game series. The Red Sox dropped the first two games before winning 7-5 on Sunday. Bullpen woes played a role in their first two losses, an issue the team has faced for a few seasons now. Between injuries and inconsistent playing time, their bullpen has failed to find their groove. Although Boston won the third game of the series with one more to go, they still have a lot to work on. If they don’t, the bullpen woes will cost the team a playoff birth.

The box scores indicate where the relief pitching often collapses. Their startersbullpen woes are decent, but not strong. Friday’s game saw starter Steve Wright give up four earned runs through six innings. The Red Sox scored five of their own but it wasn’t enough. Reliever Heath Hembree’s inability to stop the Tigers’ led to their victory as he gave up two runs for a 6-5 loss. They can’t afford to make these kinds of mistakes so early in the season. Yes, it is early, but its better to face these issues sooner than later. It will only get worse because opposing teams will continue to focus their offensive efforts on the relievers.

Late Inning Offensive Is Just as Bad As The Sox Bullpen Woes

It’s only fair to point out that the Red Sox bullpen would be stronger if they had the run support. The Red Sox don’t have much of a problem scoring runs early on. It’s the later innings when opposing pitchers, who by then have faced the same hitter a few times, know how to retire the side. I’ve been saying this for a while now. The Red Sox have an issue with overcoming deficits. Opposing pitchers know the lineup too well and it doesn’t seem like Farrell’s doing much to change his tactics (Admittedly, I wrote this line before today’s victory over Detroit).

Boosting their later inning offense could be the solution Farrell needs, as was evident in today’s victory over Detroit. We saw the Red Sox rally in the top of the 8th by scoring three runs, just enough for Craig Kimbrel to pick up the save. The Red Sox might see more victories like this if they continue to focus on offense. This could be the key. If the team can build the run support in later innings like they did today, the bullpen will have more breathing room and can focus on saving the game.

Today’s victory over Detroit is a model the Red Sox should follow the next time they fall behind. What you saw in the 8th inning today were simple hit-and-run tactics managers don’t focus on often enough anymore. Get on base, drive them home, rack up the runs.

Let’s hope the Red Sox use today’s victory as a model for future success.

Sox Rotation Looks Good to Go for Season

NEWS: The Red Sox optioned RHP Kyle Kendrick to minor league camp on TuesdaySox Rotation morning, (3/28/17). Kendrick is a 32 year old veteran starting pitcher who has spent most of his career with the Phillies so far. He went 3-0 this spring with an ERA of 2.17. Kendrick will look to make his way back to the big leagues (for the first time since 2015) if there are pitching-struggles along the road. With this move, the Sox rotation is looking set to start the 2017 campaign.

Red Sox Rotation as of Right Now

One of the most anticipated areas throughout the entire Sox organization this season is the starting rotation. After the team acquired LHP Chris Sale, Red Sox Nation rejoiced over our potential big-three. LHP David Price is now expected to miss some time to start the year, which means that trio will have to wait. Even though this is the case, the Sox rotation is looking better than ever. The staff is led by reigning Cy Young award-winner Rick Porcello, who went 2-0 in 3 starts in Spring Training. Chris Sale will then enter into the #2 spot in the rotation. Sale went 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA and 26 K’s over 21.0 IP this spring. Sale will look to adjust to the American League East this season, coming originally from Chicago.

Back Half of Sox Pitching Rotation

Since David Price will not be in the rotation to start the year, LHP Eduardo Rodriguez will fill in at #3. E-Rod will be looking to break out in his age 24 season after a successful spring. Rodriguez went 3-0 with a 3.32 ERA with 16 strikeouts. Though Rodriguez is still young, he is gaining valuable big league experience that will help him down the road in his career. The knuckleballer Steven Wright is expected to be in the 4-spot in the rotation come regular-season time. Wright missed time last year after injuring his shoulder while pinch running in a game last season. He will look to bounce back from his injury after pitching rather well in Spring Training. Wright did not allow an earned run in 9 &1/3 innings pitched this preseason.

The final spot in the rotation looks to be Drew Pomeranz’s to start off the season. Pomeranz is looking to make new impressions in Boston after having a disappointing second-half for the team. He spent some time in the bullpen, and it looks as if that is where he will spend some time this year once Price returns. Pomeranz was 0-1 this spring with an ERA of 9.0 in 8 IP.

No matter what, the Red Sox will have viable options throughout their organization to produce for them on the mound. The big-three will be fun to watch, but even if we can’t see that for a little while, the team should fare well enough without it.

Red Sox Land Chris Sale in Blockbuster Deal

And then the stove got hotter.

The Red Sox pulled off a nice deal Tuesday morning. They shook the baseball world Tuesday afternoon. In the morning, they acquired a hard-throwing set-up man in Tyler Thornburg, parting ways with Travis Shaw. Then, the rumors Red Sox fans have heard forChris Sale over a year now have come to fruition and Chris Sale is a Boston Red Sock. The best part of the deal is: they didn’t break the bank.

Don’t get it twisted: Chris Sale is the best pitcher in the American League. That is an indisputable fact. Since 2012, Sale leads the AL in ERA, WHIP, complete games, shutouts, and OPS against. In his sevens seasons, he has made the All-Star team six times and he led the league in ERA and strikeouts in 2015 and complete games in 2016. He has also never been outside the top six in Cy Young voting the last five seasons. Sale led the league in strikeouts per nine innings twice in his career and is the active leader among all AL pitchers.

Dave Dombrowski has now made his starting rotation nearly obsolete. They now have two of the top pitchers in the American League this decade in Sale and David Price along with the AL Cy Young winner in Rick Porcello. They also have Eduardo Rodriguez, who was lethal after coming off the DL and Drew Pomeranz, their best pitcher in the postseason. That being said, Pomeranz is clearly the weakest link in the rotation and that’s a good position to be in. If Steven Wright is as healthy as the management says he is, he could even return to All-Star form.

Chicago’s Side of the Sale Deal

On the other side of the deal, the Red Sox did also give up two of their top five prospects. They parted ways with the Minor League Player of the Year in Yoan Moncada and their top pitching prospect, Michael Kopech. Moncada has every chance to be an All-Star and Kopech has hit triple digits on the radar gun. Moncada still has some work to do as we saw at the end of the season, but he should be a good player. Kopech didn’t get above Single-A last year and injured himself punching a teammate. The other two prospects were Luis Basabe and Victor Diaz. In the end, you got a perennial Cy Young candidate without touching your Major League roster. That is a deal any GM would be dumb to turn down.

The Red Sox have attacked this season the right way. They have gone for the arms. They added a top-of-the-line starter and a dynamite set-up man in front of Craig Kimbrel. Also, Red Sox fans should know one more Chris Sale stat before they question this trade again. Against the Yankees, Sale has a 1.17 ERA, the lowest in the live ball era (1920) against the Bronx Bombers in a minimum of 50 innings. Finally, it’s very team friendly. Boston will have him under control for three years with an average of just over 12 million a year. In comparison, Rick Porcello gets about 21 million and David Price gets about 34 million. The Red Sox were a contender already. With Sale added to their rotation, they are a favorite…if they have discarded their throwback uniforms of course.