The Red Sox’ first ten games have been rough to say the least. They currently have a record of 3-7 and they’re in last place in the AL East. Under normal circumstances, the first ten games would not mean much over the 162 game marathon that is a regular MLB season, but in this 60 game sprint, every game is important and the Red Sox need to clean up their act quickly.
First, let’s take a look at the most glaring issue: the starting pitching. Aside from Nathan Eovaldi who has posted a stellar 2.45 ERA through two starts, the rest of the rotation has been nothing short of a disaster. Martin Perez, a pitcher that is expected to give the Red Sox some sort of stability behind Eovaldi, was roughed up in his first start of the year against a weak Baltimore Orioles lineup. It should be noted that Perez’s next outing against the Mets was solid, going 5.2 innings and giving up just two runs. However, the fact that Perez is already showing signs of inconsistency is concerning, especially in a season where he’ll be operating as the Red Sox’ #2 starting pitcher. As you probably know, Eduardo Rodriguez was shut down for the season due to a post-COVID-19 heart problem. This makes Martin Perez arguably the most important player on the team. Eovaldi seems to be primed to have a very good year, but the Red Sox need another pitcher besides him that can put together a string of quality starts. If Perez can’t find success, it will be near impossible for the Red Sox to be competitive this season.
Looking at the the rest of the “rotation”, if you can call it that, it gets pretty ugly. Ryan Weber was given the #3 spot in the rotation after impressing the coaching staff in camp, however his start to the year has been brutal as Weber has an 11.57 ERA through two starts and he has yet to record a strikeout. Hitters look very comfortable at the plate when they’re facing Weber, and this is a huge issue. Weber has an opportunity to make a name for himself this season, but he needs to find a way to be more effective. The back end of the rotation is no one specific. Josh Osich started the fourth game of the year essentially as an opener (he pitched 2 innings and gave up 2 runs), but when his spot in the rotation came up again, Roenicke went to Zack Godley, who was eaten alive by the stacked New York Yankees lineup. It remains to be seen if Godley will stay in the rotation. Personally, I think Chris Mazza should get a chance to start after an impressive performance in relief of Godley on Saturday. If the end of the rotation can’t figure it out, the bullpen will inevitably be overused which will make it much less effective. The fifth day is already being used as a bullpen game, which makes it vital for Weber and the #4 starter to find a way to be more productive.
As far as the bullpen goes, I’m honestly not concerned at all. Is the bullpen flawless? No. Did Matt Barnes blow the lead in an important game against Aaron Judge and the Yankees on Sunday night? Yes. The bullpen has had its share of struggles in the beginning of the season, but people seem to be forgetting that they’re missing two key relievers. Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez have both been unavailable so far due to testing positive for COVID-19. They both could come back as early as this week, and I don’t think Red Sox fans are realizing how big this is. Taylor and Hernandez were both very key pieces in Boston’s bullpen toward the end of last year. When Taylor comes back, he will likely walk right into a high leverage role behind closer Brandon Workman and setup man Matt Barnes. Darwinzon, on the other hand, can be used in a variety of ways. The Red Sox’ Chief Baseball Officer, Chaim Bloom, has said that they want Hernandez “to help [them] in a bit larger role than just short relief.” Whether he’s used in relief or in the back end of the rotation, Darwinzon Hernandez is going to be a big help to the struggling Red Sox pitching staff.
Offensively, the Red Sox have yet to hit their stride. With the exception of Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez, and Kevin Pillar, no one seems to be hitting to their capabilities. Devers hitting his first home run on Sunday night is a step in the right direction, however he’s looked lost at the plate most of the time. JD Martinez is hitting just .222 and has no home runs. Andrew Benintendi is hitting .083 and can’t seem to buy it, Michael Chavis is a strikeout machine, and Alex Verdugo is hitting .231 and has had a very quiet start to his Red Sox career. All of the names that I mentioned are very talented, capable hitters, which is why I truly believe the offense will be fine. They will all make adjustments and start hitting the way they should be. Mookie Betts may be a big loss, but they still have one of the better lineups in the league.
I will be the first to tell you that the beginning of this Red Sox season has been painful to watch in every way. With that said, the bullpen is about to get much better and I have no doubts that players will break out of their slumps very soon. To me, it is the bad starting pitching that has had a trickle-down effect on the whole roster, which is why the rotation is the clear X factor for the Red Sox. Aside from the “opener” day, if the starting pitching can give consistent length and decent production for the most part, everything else will work itself out and the Red Sox will give themselves a chance down the stretch. If not, we can kiss this season goodbye!