Justin Masterson

Is John Farrell setting stage to replace Justin Masterson in rotation?

Rob Bradford
May 12, 2015 - 9:44 pm

OAKLAND -- After his team's 9-2 loss to the A's Tuesday night, John Farrell officially opened the door for the Red Sox to potentially change their starting rotation for the first time this season. Even before Farrell spoke to the media after the defeat, it wouldn't have taken a leap of faith to suggest Justin Masterson's spot in the rotation was tenuous. The Sox starter allowed six runs in just 2 1/3 innings, pushing his ERA to 6.37. But when the manager introduced the possibility that at least part of Masterson's issues have to do with a physical issue, the likelihood of somebody else making the Sox start Sunday in Seattle grew quite a bit. "The last two times out for Justin have not been anything close to what he'€™s even shown this year, set aside everything to the start of 2015," the manager said. "Clearly, he'€™s not right. Whether that'€™s physical, whether that'€™s delivery-wise, the ball not coming out of his hand as he'€™s shown for the better part of this year. We'€™ve got to gather some information overnight. We'€™ve got to check on him when he comes in in the morning, go through a full work-up and just kind of get a better assessment of where things are." Then asked about Masterson's physical status, Farrell responded, "Just talking with the medical staff right now and talking with Justin himself, it'€™s not anything glaring or an area of the body that could be identified to say that this is the primary reason. To what extent he feels anything that might subconsciously be in there to not allow him the freeness and the ability to cut the ball loose, that'€™s what we'€™re trying to cut to the bottom of." While Farrell wasn't ruling out an injury for Masterson, the starter certainly wasn't offering any insight to his physical status. Masterson dealt with oblique and other various injuries throughout his 2014 season, but he insisted that there is no correlation when analyzing his downturn. "No," Masterson said when asked if he was dealing with an injury. "I mean, the biggest thing was I just wasn't able to stand on anything today. It'€™s a little different, that'€™s probably why, when I was talking to him, it'€™s a little bit different where as the last five outings everything felt, 'Here go, let'€™s go,' even if it wasn't as good as I was hoping for. This one it didn't come out as well as I was hoping, but again, we knew this was going to be a year of hitting our spots and that didn't take place. ... It wasn't fun tonight. I'€™ll say that much. It wasn't fun." Despite giving up 10 runs on 13 hits with seven walks over his last two starts, Masterson remained intent on making his next scheduled start. "As we discuss right now I think we'€™re more than capable," the pitcher said regarding the ability to stay on schedule. "Simply because it'€™s coming today, but I really think it'€™s not really anything too extreme at this point. The way I feel I shouldn't be having effects or anything while I'€™m out there throwing and doing my thing. So I think it would be a good time to work and assess and really go out and try to have some fun in Seattle." He seemed to pin the struggles on just another poor outing at O.com Coliseum, where he is now 0-6 with a 7.26 ERA in seven starts. "I guess the Coliseum has some voodoo on me or something," he said. "I tried to sneak out of there last year. Another one of those where I never had a chance to feel comfortable. Didn'€™t feel comfortable in the pregame bullpen as far as just being able to have a good release point. Then once the game came, every single pitch I was trying to take a ball in, leave it in the middle homer. Try to take it over, leave it down the middle. Everything just ran back to the middle. That'€™s not really what we'€™re trying to do." If Masterson is pulled from the Sunday outing, one candidate to fill in would be Steven Wright. The knuckleballer came on for the Sox starter Tuesday night and pitched fairly well, giving up three runs on six hits with three walks over 5 2/3 innings. "Well, even when we broke spring training, he was in consideration for a spot if needed," Farrell said. "He'€™s done nothing but continue to support that." As for help from Triple-A Pawtucket, Eduardo Rodriguez is slated to pitch Wednesday afternoon so it should be apparent in short order if the left-hander is an option. In five starts, Rodriguez has a 2.73 ERA, striking out 29 and walking four. He is coming off his worst outing of the season, having given up four runs in five innings. Brian Johnson last pitched Saturday, turning in a solid six-inning start in which he gave up one run. The fast-working lefty has a 3.03 ERA in six starts, fanning 31 and walking 16. Henry Owens wouldn't seem to be a candidate, struggling mightily with his command. The big lefty has limited opponents to just a .171 batting average in six starts, but has as many walks as strikeouts (25). Owens' last start, coming Sunday, saw him not allow a hit in four innings, but he did walk six and allow three runs.