Red Sox can only get by with current pitching for so long

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

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A week ago, following another disappointing start from Steven Wright where he allowed 5 runs on 7 hits through 6.1 innings, one could have argued the Red Sox may need to look elsewhere for their fifth starter.

Now, with Wright on the DL and out for the remainder of the season with a left knee injury, they have no choice but to look elsewhere for their fifth starter.

Wright, a year after his surprising All-Star season (alas, he did not pitch in the Midsummer Classic), began the 2017 season, in a word, dreadfully. Perhaps that was because of the underlying knee issue, perhaps not, but either way his 8.25 ERA and 1.875 WHIP weren’t cutting it.

Winter-signing Kyle Kendrick was the first man to get a chance to replace Wright, getting his first start of the season Thursday night against the Baltimore Orioles. It went about as well as you’d expect; Kendrick allowed 6 runs on 8 hits over 4 innings and was tagged with the loss. After the game, Red Sox manager John Farrell said Kendrick would continue to get a chance in the rotation, at least for the time being. Being a 10-year MLB veteran with a career 4.66 ERA, there’s reason to believe he could be a passable fifth starter, but after spending all of 2016 in the Angels’ minor-league system and performing as he did Thursday, chances are he’s not going to stick.

That leaves the Red Sox with a hole in the rotation, albeit one they hope will sooner-than-later be filled by the injured David Price, whose rehab from a left elbow injury is slowly but surely moving along. Pluggin Price back into the rotation and bumping the 2–4 spots down a peg would be the best possible fix for Boston; the problem is, doing so is no guarantee. Price has no timetable for a return, and there’s no way to know A) how effective he’ll be when he finally does or B) how long he’ll be back before his arm troubles flare up again.

AP Photo/David Goldman

In the immediate short-term, they can afford to give Kendrick another shot or two. But if he continues to falter and Price continues to sit, Boston will need to do something about the final spot in the rotation, and the options to do so are…not so great.

In-house, Boston has several options already on the 40-man roster that range from not great to really, really not great. Roenis Elias has starting experience, but also happens to be on the DL currently with an intercostal strain; he hasn’t pitched at any level this season. Joe Kelly has plenty of experience in a starting rotation, and the result of all of that experience is that he’s no longer in a starting rotation. Boston could theoretically give Henry Owens yet another chance at the major-league rotation, but in 16 career starts over the last two seasons he has a 5.19 ERA; last season he walked 20 batters in 22 MLB innings. Brandon Workman has 18 career starts, but none since 2014 and hadn’t even made an MLB appearance since then before throwing 3 innings on Thursday. Nobody else on the 40-man really deserves mention.

There are some options outside the organization; Doug Fister remains unsigned, as do Edwin Jackson, Colby Lewis, Tim Lincecum and old-friend/possibly-retired Jake Peavy. The upside on all these players is nonexistant, and only Fister and Lewis have seen real, sustained success in the last few seasons (Peavy has had some nice stretches, but he’s a long-shot to return anywhere right now).

Right now, there are no easy answers for Boston. Maybe Price is back within a few weeks and they get by with Kendrick at the end of the rotation for another two or three starts. Maybe Dave Dombrowski does his thing and makes a deal if that doesn’t look like a possibility. But for a team with playoff (and beyond) aspirations, what they have now won’t be enough in the long-run.

If the problem persists much longer, a more permanent and effective solution — whatever it may be — will be needed.