Red Sox pitching concerns perfectly timed as Yankees worry

Eric D. Schabell
Contributing Writer

It's a lot of fun to watch the Red Sox at the start of this 2018 season.

17-2 makes these Red Sox something pretty special, becoming just the fifth team in the live-ball era to win 17 of its first 19 games. It's not been done since the 1987 Brewers, according to

The core starting pitching behind Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello have been closing down opposing teams like a Boston waterfront pub at 4am. Injuries delaying Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz meant that depth pitchers Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson stepped in to pick up the workload.

Through all of this one began to question the need for great starting pitching as the offense put up six or more runs in 12 of 16 games played in April. With an offense like that, who needs pitching?

While the top three starters have been performing to their expected levels, and it's nice that the backend was picked up by the Red Sox pitching depth, pitching concerns shall surface when the offense cools down to mundane levels. Dry spells in Red Sox offense over the last years exposes the weakness in pitching that can't allow three runs in a given game.

Let's look at the rotation as it returns to it's planned form, with Rodriguez returning from knee surgery and Pomeranz from elbow issues.

Rodriguez has pitched three games and has had issues with control that lead to problems pitching deep into games. Over 15.2 IP he's walked seven, given up three runs average per appearance, averaged 100 pitches per outing and is only getting on average in to the fifth inning.

With the offense rolling along, Rodriguez is doing well enough for the fifth starter but there is little margin for error should the bats slow down.

Another case in point, Friday night in Oakland Pomeranz returned to the mound for the Red Sox. He was understandably rusty, struggling for a feel on his knuckle-curve which he spiked well short of the plate on two critical occasions. He threw 45 pitches in the first inning and failed to execute with a surging Oakland offense, which nobody remembers after another grand slam by the Red Sox.

The offense putting up seven runs will easily erase any memory of a bad outing by your starting pitcher.

What else is in the pipeline, due to return for the Red Sox?

Injury updates

Wright spent Friday night with Triple-A Pawtucket on his first rehab start since returning from left knee surgery back in May of 2017. He was removed from the mound with stiffness in his back after 2 2/3 IP. He threw 61 pitches, gave up two walks, three strikeouts and three earned runs. Wright was scheduled to throw six innings with an 80-pitch limit.

After starting the season on the 10-day disabled list following a platelet-rich plasma injection in his knee, Wright's back stiffness puts a wrench in the works for his return to the Red Sox lineup. Once he does return, he still needs to serve a 15-game suspension for violating MLB's Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.

Pitcher Bobby Poyner on the other hand is making good progress since his 10-day disabled list assignment for a left hamstring. He's slated to make his second rehab appearance today for Double-A Portland. It's not certain if he joins the Red Sox for their upcoming series in Toronto as manager Alex Cora wants to decide after his appearance. Thursday Poyner started in Portland, pitching one inning allowing one hit and striking out one while throwing 12 of 19 pitches for strikes. As a bullpen arm he's posted a 2.57 ERA over seven IP in six relief appearances.

What about Dustin Pedroia?

He'll leave extended spring training to join the Red Sox in Boston next week for their homestand. He did that last homestand, but no updates to his timetable for returning to play since undergoing left knee surgery in October 2017. The only hint given by Cora was short and sweet.

"He's doing everything, but it's like the beginning of Spring Training for him," Cora said.

The league

With all the injuries and depth returning slowly but surely to the Red Sox, what is on the mind of AL East rivals watching a 17-2 start?

Yankees manager Aaron Boone confessed to keeping an eye on the Red Sox from 7 1/2 games back and 3 1/2 back from the Blue Jays.

"I know they win every day by a lot," Boone said of the Red Sox. “They are playing great."

He's not conceding the AL East in April though.

“We are trying to get our own house in order, trying to get guys healthy and on the mend," Boone said. “Just trying to get traction and guys playing well. That’s all you can concern yourself with especially at this point in the season. But it’s hard not to notice they are running through the league right now."

Yes, Red Sox Nation, there is a lot to be happy about in Boston right now.

Post a comment or via twitter @erics_redsox with your thoughts.

More by Eric D. Schabell