By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
With Eduardo Rodriguez sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury, the Boston Red Sox will likely have to count on Steven Wright or Drew Pomeranz to contribute in the second half.
That makes you feel a little uneasy, doesn’t it?
When healthy, both have had stretches of excellent performance in a Red Sox uniform. But the lefty and the knuckleballer have also been plagued by lingering injury problems, raising legitimate questions about whether either one of them can deliver a reliable-enough performance down the stretch to help the Sox outlast the Yankees for the division crown.
The Red Sox entered the season with Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Rodriguez, Pomeranz, and Wright as their top six starting pitchers. There were only a few weeks in late May where all six were healthy at the same time.
Now three of those pitchers are on the disabled list, forcing the team to turn to Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez, options seven and eight, for the time being.
Still, the Sox haven’t missed a beat, an indication that they have better depth than most at starting pitcher. But it’s hard to imagine that relying on Johnson and Velazquez for an extended period of time is a recipe for success.
At this point, there is little buzz about the Red Sox being major players for a starting pitcher on the trade market. Alex Speier of The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that the team’s focus remains on bolstering their bullpen while taking a “wait and see” approach to both starting pitcher and second base.
The wait-and-see factor likely centers around Pomeranz, who tossed a solid rehab outing for Triple-A Pawtucket Wednesday night in Charlotte. The southpaw went six innings, giving up one run on one hit while walking two and striking out five.
The start represented a step forward for Pomeranz, who had struggled in his three previous rehab outings for the PawSox (nine runs in 9 1/3 innings).
With four rehab starts now under his belt, Pomeranz has emerged as a potential option to slide into the rotation soon after the All-Star break ends.
The news on Wright does not look as positive. He was given a PRP injection in his knee earlier this month, but the team said last week that he is progressing more slowly than hoped.
The news on Rodriguez, meanwhile, can hardly be interpreted as anything but negative. He suffered “serious damage” to his ankle while covering first base on Saturday against Toronto and will be in a walking boot for two weeks before he is reevaluated. Alex Cora said he is “optimistic” Rodriguez will pitch again this year, but given the lefty’s history of bouncing back slowly from injuries, expectations on any type of return to action soon should be limited.
With that in mind, all eyes likely turn last year’s 17-game winner in Pomeranz.
It remains to be seen if the left biceps tendinitis that landed Pomeranz on the DL was a factor in his ineffectiveness in April and May. If some improved health leads to improved performance, the Red Sox should be okay in the rotation. If Pomeranz falters again, then Dave Dombrowski might have to deliver a starter to 4 Jersey Street at the trading deadline.
A free agent at the end of the year, Pomeranz is counting on a bounce back second half to rebuild some of his value.
And while it might make you a little uneasy, it certainly looks like the Red Sox are now counting a Pomeranz bounce back, too.