Latest On The Red Sox’ Rotation
The Red Sox rotation will likely lose several starters early in the season, writes MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo Garret Whitlock, Brayan Bello And James Paxton are expected to start the season on the injured list. Paxton was already trending in that direction, but Whitlock and Bello are now jointly missing out on at least the start of the 2023 season. Cotillo notes that Whitlock, who got a late start while recovering from hip surgery, is expected to be ready by mid-April . Bello, who struggled with forearm tension early in the camp, was to follow shortly thereafter. Paxton is not expected to return until May at the earliest.
The Red Sox announced this offseason signing this week Corey Kluber would get the nod on opening day. left handed Chris Sale, who is eyeing a rebound campaign after a terrible injury streak in recent seasons, is set to start game two of the season. right-handed Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck and probably Cutter Crawford should round off the quintet at the beginning of the year.
With Whitlock and Bello both expected to return at the end of the first month of the season, the rotation will likely be reconfigured at the start of the regular season. Crawford, who battled his way to a 5.47 ERA in 77 2/3 frames last season, looks like the underdog once either Whitlock or Bello can reclaim a place in the starting XI. In this case, Crawford would serve as an optional rotation depth alongside Josh Winckowski.
Assuming everyone stays healthy until both Whitlock and Bello are ready to return, the Sox will face a decision between Houck and Pivetta for the final rotation slot. Pivetta made 33 starts in the league last season and led the team with 179 2/3 innings. That impressive volume came with so-so results, however, as the right-hander recorded a slightly below-average 4.56 ERA during the 2022 campaign.
Houck, on the other hand, had been a successful pitcher up to this point in his career both as a starter (3.22 ERA in 92 1/3 innings) and as a reliever (2.68 ERA in 53 2/3 innings). The former first-rounder has long been viewed as a potential rotation player at Fenway, but the Red Sox were noncommittal early in the offseason when asked about his role. Houck also had back surgery late last season and ended the year on the injured list having completed 28 of his 32 appearances as a helper. It’s easy to see why the Sox would be intrigued by the idea of Houck increasing his workload and getting even more running on the starting team this year, but he’s coming off a 60-inning season that ended with back surgery. a jump to the workload of a full starter would be a surprise.
Of course, this doesn’t have to be a strict either-or proposition. Situations like this tend to resolve on their own, often when injuries crop up elsewhere on a pitching staff. Getting Houck some early rotation work and maybe putting him in a multi-inning relief/sixth starter roll once everyone is healthy would be a good means of managing his workload as he ramps up from last year’s 60 innings.
While the plan is to run Houck as a starter for as long as possible, that doesn’t mean Pivetta will be decisively pushed out of the rotation. Given that Sale, Whitlock, Bello, Houck, Kluber and especially Paxton have suffered some notable injuries in recent seasons, it’s likely the Sox need to shuffle some starters. All six of their top picks will be spending significant time in rotation this summer, and they’ll also include depth options like Crawford, Winckowski, BrandonWalter, Chris Murphy And Bryan Mata as candidates for rotation work in the minors.