Red Sox Spring search for fifth starter has surprising solution

(Photo: Matt Stone Boston Herald)
Eric D. Schabell
Contributing Writer

It's been no secret that the Red Sox starting rotation was going to be a problem for the 2020 season.

Fellow Red Sox Life contributor Ahaan Rungta paints a picture of a starting rotation that's second best in the AL East. Coming into this Spring, the rotation was painted as Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, and the fifth spot up for grabs.

With the news now of Sale having elbow concerns to start in the Spring, one is wondering not only about the fifth spot in the rotation, but about the depth of the rotation as a whole.

Not only did the Red Sox weaken their offence by trading Mookie Betts, they took a serious hit on their rotation by sending off David Price and letting Rick Porcello walk.

Even with all the dark cloud indicators pointing to an 86 projected wins in the AL East, there could be a surprising solution for this rotation in 2020.

Rotation woes

Rungta is fair to note the elbow issues of Sale causing his shutdown after 25 starts in 2019 and health issues for Eovaldi limiting him to just 12 starts. Rodriguez is looking like he's made a step forward this Spring and was pretty solid in 2019 where he led the rotation with 34 starts, posting a 3.81 ERA. Perez is being touted as the forth starter, but if you look closer at his 29 starts in 2019 one pales when evaluating his 5.21 ERA, 10-7 record, with the high scoring Twins putting an average of 5.75 runs per game on the scoreboard.

On that note, one must look at the cost of losing Price and Porcello walk. Price put up 22 starts with a 4.28 ERA, but has logged seven out of 12 years with 30+ starts. Porcello walked away from 2019 after starting 32 games, which he's matched four of his five years with the Red Sox, posted a 5.52 ERA, but was a true work horse.

That's gone now.

Spring is showing us the depth of the Red Sox system and it's not going to be able to hold things up while Sale and others need down time. On the left-handed side there is Kyle Hart, whose been working double-A to triple-A last season, but hit hard so far this Spring. He's not ready for the Majors yet.

On the right-handed side you've got Chris Mazza who came over from the Mets where he was not a started to begin with and has struggled this Spring for the Red Sox. Then there's Bryan Mata who's been dazzling in Spring, but needs time to grow in the minors. Then there's Tanner Houck, a non-roster invite to Spring who's been very solid over his two starts. He's been splitting time over double-A and triple-A where he's done fairly well.

Assuming there's no surprise Spring rotation acquisition by the Red Sox, let's just look to the existing options.

So has anything we've seen so far in Spring provided a solution?

Surprising solution

Surprisingly, there might be a solution to slot in one of the more effective right-handers we've seen this Spring, Ryan Weber.

Yes, you read that right, Weber who's been pitching as good as Eovaldi who's able to hit 100 on the radar gun. Weber has also had two Spring starts and completed five innings, given up five hits, one unearned run, struck out seven, but more impressively while not walking a single hitter.

Needless to say, interim manager Ron Roenicke has been taking notice, as stated in an interview with Pete Abraham, ""He knows how to pitch. When to mix it up and when to attack. He's got a good feel. He throws strikes."

Pitching coach Dave Bush clarifies what might have made a difference for Weber this year, his focus on using his cutter more.

We talked about it a little bit last year. But it was something new and he was a little reluctant to try it," said Bush. "Over time he got more comfortable with the idea. We really impressed upon him the importance to the rest of his pitches."

Of all the players trying to earn a starting spot this year, Weber is putting on the best show and as he turns 30 this season he appears to have some of the tools to keep hitters off balance. As with most players, he's happy to start or to come out of the bullpen, as long as he heads back to Boston with the team after Spring Training.

"If I get the ball in the first inning or the third inning, I'm going to pitch the way I pitch," Weber said per Abraham. "I'm comfortable starting or relieving."

One would have to think that if he continues match Eovaldi's performances in the Spring, there has to be a spot for him as a fifth starter to open the season. Another plus is that Weber can be used as a bullpen starter role, offering flexibility that the Red Sox seem to be interested in, and putting him in a better position to make the team.

Weber starts are becoming Spring Training must see baseball as he's making a serious case to join the Red Sox starting rotation.

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

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