Injuries to Red Sox starting rotation beginning to show up, and things could get worse before they get better

Ryan Hannable
May 18, 2019 - 10:47 pm

Injuries have not been kind to the Red Sox’ starting rotation over the first 45 games of the season.

David Price and Nathan Eovaldi are currently on the injured list, along with No. 6 starter Brian Johnson. This has forced the Red Sox to call upon Hector Velazquez to start seven games, and while they had won his last five starts, reality set in Saturday night against the Astros.

Velazquez allowed five runs and only recorded one out before being removed from the game in what was the shortest start for a Red Sox pitcher since Sept. 24, 2003 when John Burkett lasted only 1/3 of an inning against the Orioles and allowed seven runs.

While the Red Sox didn’t quit, they still fell by a score of 7-3.

(Click here for a complete game recap.)

The Red Sox have actually been quite fortunate from a schedule perspective with two rain outs and three off-days in the last three-plus weeks, so they haven’t had to rely on anyone besides Velazquez to slide into the rotation.

Now, the Red Sox don’t have an off-day until June 3, so that would change things except for the fact Price is scheduled to return Monday in Toronto. This means it is just Eovaldi’s spot that will need to be filled until he comes back. That is expected to be in roughly three weeks, so Velazquez likely will continue to be rolled out every five days.

And that isn’t good.

First off, he’s only pitched more than three innings once, so he’s put a tremendous amount of stress on the bullpen in the games he’s started and day or two following. Then, the numbers haven’t been any better. As a starter, his ERA is now 6.53 and he has walked 11 hitters in 19 2/3 innings.

Besides the limited off-days, the teams the Red Sox face coming up will not help matters. Following a four-game set in Toronto, they travel to Houston next weekend, come back home for three games against the Indians, before going back on the road for a four-game series in New York against the Yankees.

These are all tough series’ and are against teams that can take advantage of facing a pitcher like Velazquez, which is exactly what happened Saturday.

There also aren’t many other options available, as the only other pitcher to start a game this season has been Josh Smith and it is unlikely he’d be much better than Velazquez.

"We’ll wait and see [to decide if Velazquez starts next]," Alex Cora said afterwards. "That spot doesn’t come up again until the last day in Toronto so we’ll talk about it the next few days. Just a bad one. He could have thrown a good one."

Unless Johnson can come back before Eovaldi, the Red Sox appear to be a position where they just need to wait things out a few more weeks until getting their full complement of starters back.

Overall, although the Red Sox rotation has been much better of late, there’s still a huge liability at the backend. 

Christian Vazquez hit his sixth home run of the season, which sets a career-high.

Related: Rick Porcello had no doubt about pitching eighth inning against Astros