By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
As expected, after starting the season 3-4 and currently riding a three-game losing streak, the tune coming from the Red Sox has changed dramatically. The talk of the importance of getting off to a good start and playing with urgency, has been replaced with the preaching of patience, the same-old marathon not a sprint malarkey.
That’s what happens when four-fifths of your starting rotation looks as if they would get boxed around by a local beer league team.
Stop me if you have heard this before, but after only seven games of the season, the Sox pitching staff ranks 27th in all of baseball with a 5.90 ERA, picking right up on the pitiful way they pitched last season.
Hold on, it gets worse. The Red Sox starting staff is dead last in Major League Baseball. After seven starts, they boast a 2-2 record, with a batting average against of .283, and a bloated ERA of 7.32.
Last night’s starter Clay Buchholz gave up five runs in five innings pitched, and actually lowered his ERA to a not so perfect 10.00 for his first two starts. Tonight’s starter, the self-proclaimed Cy Young candidate a year ago Joe Kelly, was tagged for seven runs on seven hits in three innings of work in his first start of the season in Toronto against the Blue Jays last Friday night.
But no need to worry, Red Sox Nation, there is plenty of time for things to get worse.
Sure it looked like new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made all the right moves this winter when he added ace David Price, closer Craig Kimbrel, and reliever Carson Smith to a staff in desperate need of help.
Nevertheless, the awful job that former general manager Ben Cherington in terms of building just the pitching staff – we will leave the rest of the roster alone for now – has handicapped him to the point that his second highest paid starting pitcher – Rick Porcello – is a guy he liked so little, he traded him to Boston while he was still GM of the Detroit Tigers in December of 2014.
After Price, the Sox staff is made up of three head-cases, and 31-year-old knuckleballer who made his first April start in the big leagues last Sunday in Toronto.
Sure, the talk of seven games being a small sample size carries some weight, but not as much as it should when it comes to Buchholz, Kelly, and Porcello. Buchholz has made a career out of not living up to his “potential,” Kelly has been wildly inconsistent and seems better suited for the bullpen, and Porcello has been just plain bad since he came to Boston.
The best that Red Sox fans can hope for is – as WEEI’s Lou Merloni coined the phrase -that the starting staff following Price just sucks a little. They don’t have to be great; they just can’t implode every time they get the ball as has happened during the first one and two fifths time through the rotation.
The Red Sox rope is extremely short this season, and they know it. It would not surprise me one bit if the struggles with the staff continue, and they fall a handful of games under .500 that manager John Farrell is shown the door.
Baseball fans in Boston have grown weary of believing in a team that has not played a meaningful game in July in over two years. Farrell’s in-game management has never been good, and now he seems to panic on a nightly basis. And as a former pitching coach, the performance of his staff is not helping his situation one bit.
Maybe things will get better when Christian Vazquez returns to catch full-time for the Sox later this month. Thus far this season, his co-catcher-of-the-future Blake Swihart, has looked overwhelmed behind the plate. It should not be overlooked that the Sox pitching staff was profuse in their praise of Vazquez this spring.
Perhaps the return of Eduardo Rodriguez, who is expected back sometime in May, will give the Sox the second starter they so desperately need. Even so, as Red Sox fans know all too well, the season could be lost already by the time he returns.
It is déjà vu all over again in Boston. If the pitching doesn’t improve and fast, the season might just be over before summer starts for the third consecutive year in a row.