By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
Remember when the Red Sox starting staff was considered perhaps the best in the American League before spring training started? Visions of the one, two, three punch that Rick Porcello, David Price and off season acquisition Chris Sale provided on paper, had Sox fans dreaming of October baseball before a single bunt was put down under the Fort Myers sun in February.
Well, there is a reason that pennants aren’t won on paper, and division races are not decided in spring training; and unfortunately for the fans of Boston’s baseball team, they are finding out there is nothing more valuable than health no matter what time of the year it is.
With Price suffering a sore forearm/elbow early in camp – therefore, starting the season on the disabled list and perhaps facing Tommy John surgery – the high hopes of Red Sox Nation took a step back from planning a World Series parade in November, to hoping to piece together a starting staff that can remain in contention until the trade deadline this July.
Those hopes took another kick in the crotch when Drew Pomeranz – he of the controversial trade for highly touted pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza last summer, when it was later revealed that San Diego Padres withheld medical reports on the lefty’s elbow – had to leave Sunday’s start against the Minnesota Twins in Florida with triceps tightness.
Ruh-Roh, Raggy; the Red Sox have suddenly gone from a team with one of the best staffs in baseball, to having to look at using rag-arms like Henry Owens and Brian Johnson to start games at the major-league level when the season starts in two weeks.
Within the last year team president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski has dealt away some of the team’s best prospects to land Pomeranz, Sale, Craig Kimbrel, Tyler Thornburg (who has been sidelined with a sore arm this spring), and Carson Smith (coming off Tommy John surgery in May or June) in order to win now. However, given the lack of pitching prospects in the Sox system and the likelihood that Price and Pomeranz will probably have trouble making it through the season – if even pitching at all – one has to wonder if Dombrowski will have to reach into is ever evaporating well of minor-league talent to add a starter sooner, rather than later.
According to soxprospects.com, the only two pitchers to crack the top ten of Red Sox prospects is 18-year-old lefty Jason Groome – who was drafted last summer and has yet to pitch in any level higher than the Fall Instructional League – and 19-year-old righty
Roniel Raudes – who started 24 games for Greenville in A-ball, going 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA. In other words, there is not a lot to choose from internally should the Sox lose Price, Pomeranz or both.
Add to that dilemma the fact the knuckleballer Steven Wright is still trying to battle back from manager John Farrell’s decision to pinch run him in an interleague game against the Dodgers in Los Angeles last August – which resulted in an injury to his pitching shoulder when he dove back to the second base bag on a pick off attempt – and you have the warm bucket of spit that currently represents the Red Sox rotation.
If you assume – which you should – that Price will miss the month of April at least, and Pomeranz will need to dial it back – which will make it likely that he will not be available to start the season – then the importance of Wright and the ever-unreliable Eduardo Rodriguez, will be much higher than anyone anticipated only a month ago. Not to mention, which Flotsam and Jetsam will occupy the fifth starting spot for the Sox.
Two days off in the first two weeks of the season makes it possible for Farrell to skip a fifth starter altogether if he so chooses – which given his likely awful options he ostensibly would – however, unless the health of Pomeranz and Price takes a near-miraculous up tick, the stuff will hit the fan come the end of April, whether he wants it to or not.
What started in early February looking like a fait accompli that the Red Sox would be playing fall baseball, has become a seemingly sad MASH rerun, with helicopters set to carry Sox pitchers to Alabama to visit Dr. James Andrews to face what is likely a grim fate.
Of course, the season hasn’t started and anything is possible – just ask Kevin Garnett – but the sunny forecast most Sox fans had for this summer is suddenly looking stormy, given the lack of depth – and health – of their starting staff.