By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
In the end, whether they win today or not, the Red Sox needed a quarter of the season to dig themselves out of their season-opening hole. The Red Sox will defend their approach to the very end, and you can bet that they will rub our noses in it if and when their starting pitchers – all of them – are healthy and strong in September and, perhaps, beyond.
But here’s the problem:
Their plan is already failing, and not just because the Sox got off to a horrendous start.
Don’t look now, Red Sox followers, but the news that David Price has landed on the injured list has left the Sox in a rather curious position. Forty percent of the team’s starting rotation is now on the IL, Price (elbow tendinitis) joining Nathan Eovaldi (elbow surgery) on the sideline. No one can possibly know how Sox pitchers will fare in the long run this season, but the idea was to bring them along slowly so that they would all be at maximum strength in September and October.
Now here we are, a little more than a month into the season, and two of them are on the sidelines with arm ailments. And again, the Sox brought them along slowly.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox lost each of Chris Sale’s first six starts, the No. 1 reason they are still trying to get to .500 with Sale scheduled to pitch Wednesday.
How this plays out in the long run is still anybody’s guess, but the Sox have a depth problem – and it’s early May. The suspension of Steven Wright and an injury (yes, another) to Brian Johnson means the Sox have already burned through the top eight starters on their depth chart, which is an alarming reality for a team with a minor league system ranked among the worst in baseball.
That’s why Josh Smith started on Monday in Baltimore, despite the fact that the Sox had won three in a row and had the chance to reach .500 for the first time all year.
What does all of this mean? That as careful as the Sox were with their starters, they are already having problems. And remember, the Sox were cautious with Sale last year, too, only to see him land on the disabled list after the All-Star break and never really recover.
From this point on, it’s entirely possible (but unlikely) that the Sox will go the rest of the year without a major setback in their rotation. In the interim, we can’t help but wonder if the Sox would have been better off with a slightly more traditional approach with their pitchers during spring training - and a break for the starters who needed it during the middle of the year.
As always, time will tell.