Dave Dombrowski on D&K: Red Sox will revisit spring training approach to pitchers

Nick Friar
August 21, 2019 - 12:01 pm

Since Alex Cora took over as manager of the Red Sox, the team hasn’t exactly taken the conventional route when it comes to handling starting pitchers during spring training. Obviously, things panned out well for Boston last year, but this year — when it seemed each of the starters had a fairly similar plan to one another in Fort Myers — things have gone south.

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Chris Sale is now out for the year. Nathan Eovaldi has had health problems. Rick Porcello has been up and down with his performance, and so on.

As much as spring training is far back in Boston’s rear view mirror, when it comes to the pitching staff, the Red Sox are still dealing with effects of how they started the year. On top of the injuries and ongoing inconsistencies, if the Red Sox didn’t start the year 2-8, the ground they need to make up in the Wild Card standings might not seem so unattainable.

Which begs the question: should the Red Sox have handled their starters differently in spring training? Dave Dombrowski seems to think they should have.

“Actually, yes I do,” he said when asked if he wishes the team handled the matter differently on Dale & Keefe as part of the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon. “But there’s a lot of thought to it. And, always, hindsight is easier. There’s different philosophies on that. But it didn’t work out the way we had wanted it to. We didn’t get off quickly, so that’s a situation that put us, kind of, in a hole right off the bat. And there were a variety of reasons for it. I remember Chris Sale, in the beginning of spring, we were being careful with him but he also had a little bit of a problem with his toe, so we were trying to be careful with that. We were in a spot where David Price has come off pitching a lot in the postseason (and) Eovaldi. But I think in a situation that — it’ll definitely be something at we reassess going into next year, I’ll guarantee that part of it.

“And you also see the other part that’s unfortunate, you always have to be careful with pitchers. Because I think it’s proven that if a pitcher is tired, they’re more apt to be susceptible to injury. But outside of that, at times, you look at guys with good deliveries that get injured, you look at guys that have unusual deliveries that never get injured. But they get injured. And one of the things we had talked about is being in a situation where we tried to prevent injuries, which is really the thought process there. But guys still got hurt. … I think all in all it’ll be something that we’ll sit back and assess and I wouldn’t be surprised if we go into next spring a little bit different.”

With Sale specifically, there are additional questions because of the contract extension and the injuries he’s dealt with in the past, to go with the one he now has. Dombrowski expressed the Red Sox had medical clearance with regard to Sale when the deal was agreed upon.

“The reality is, you’re talking about one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball,” he said. “You have one of the top-five. I was just reading on MLB.com, they’ve had this series going on all year long where they rank the top-10 at each position for the decade. … A couple weeks ago, they had the top-10 starting pitchers. (No.) 1 was Clayton Kershaw, who’s been hurt. No. 2 is Justin Verlander. No. 3 is Max Scherzer. No. 4 is Chris Sale. No. 8 is David Price. So I’ve lived with, two, three and four for a lengthy period, as well as No. 8. The one common thing is, even with Verlander and Scherzer at times, they had a little dip in a year. And sometimes they don’t say anything about it, their mechanics may be off, they may be a little bit tender. But would have loved to have these guys?

“So you look at, and I then think that if Chris pitches the way we think he’s capable — and this hasn’t been a normal Chris Sale year. But if you’re in position where Chris Sale pitches as he is — we signed him for a five-year contract, I looked last year at, let’s say, Patrick Corbin, who’s a good pitcher but we don’t put him in the Sale category, he signed for seven years (is in the) same age bracket at dollar amounts that actually even though they (paid) the higher amount, Chris gave us some ability to defer money, so the actual present value of it is a little bit less than it keeps getting reported. So we thought we got a bargain at that point at five years with somebody going into their age 30 year. So no, we looked at all those things. We thought about it, but we thought it was the right move. And I think over time it will be the right move, just this year hasn’t been quite the way we had anticipated.”

Dombrowski also stated the Red Sox expect Sale will be ready to go for next season after receiving PRP injections.