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HOUSTON, TEXAS - MAY 07: Collin McHugh #31 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Minute Maid Park on May 07, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com

With their pitching depth already thin and Chris Sale’s status for the beginning of the year up in the air, the Red Sox have added an arm, signing 32-year-old Colin McHugh. The team announced the signing Thursday morning.

McHugh comes to Boston after spending the majority of his professional career with the Houston Astros. As a rookie in 2014, he posted a 2.73 ERA in 25 starts, finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting. He followed that up with a 19-7 season in 2015, coming in eight for the AL Cy Young.

After a slight slip in 2016, an elbow issue limited him to just 12 starts the next season. The righty came back as a reliever in 2018 and dominated. McHugh made 58 appearances out of the Astros bullpen that year, turning in a 1.99 ERA in 72.1 innings.

2019 saw McHugh return to the rotation, but despite some success he was moved back to the bullpen after just a month.

Which role will McHugh have with the Red Sox? With Sale likely to miss the start of the season, it’s logical that he’d slot into the rotation as a full-on starter behind Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez.

It’s also possible that they use him as an opener given the fact he hasn’t thrown more than six innings in an outing since 2016.

In DFAing Hector Velazquez in a corresponding move, the Red Sox took one of their openers from last season off the 40-man roster, which could be an indication that McHugh will fill his role. Don’t be surprised to see Velazquez back on the roster at some point this season, he’s one of few pitchers the Red Sox have under contract with substantial MLB experience.

McHugh could find himself in the bullpen down the road, but that feels unlikely to be where he starts off. With the team set to use at least one, possibly two openers every five days, the Sox will need to eat innings wherever they can.

The bullpen is already thin in terms of bodies, and the rotation will have to cary weight early on while that situation sorts itself out. Having a guy who can throw five to six innings an outing instead only giving you one or two would be poor asset management.

However he’s used, McHugh’s signing should be viewed as a positive move for the Red Sox. He’s as good of an arm as is usually available less than a month before opening day, and he’ll be able to help the team in a number of different ways.

Adding McHugh alone isn’t enough to dig the Sox out of the whole they’re in, but he could help prevent things from getting ugly and out of hand.

Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.