Red Sox

McAdam: Red Sox need some relief from their starters

McAdam: Red Sox need some relief from their starters

BOSTON -- Somewhere between the irrational claims that the season is lost after seven games and the Alfred E. Neuman-inspired torpor reflected in the clubhouse lies the proper reponse to the Red Sox' 3-4 start to 2016.

No, it's not time to give up on a season in which less than five percent of the schedule has been completed. It's not time to ponder the benefits of tanking, with an eye toward the first overall pick in June of 2017. And it's not time to promote the entire Class A Salem roster in order to begin the rebuild ahead of schedule.

Some perspective would be nice. No division title, no playoff spot, has ever been clinched in the first week of the season. While it's somewhat troubling that the Red Sox already find themselves four games out of first one-third of the way through the first homestand, it's hardly catastrophic.

On the other hand, some acknowledgement that things need to turn around for the pitching staff wouldn't be unwarranted.

When Clay Buchholz condescendingly answers "Man, we're seven games into the season, dude,'' when asked an innocuous question about the need for the starters to go deeper into games, it reflects a certain arrogance.

That sort of stance might be warranted had the rotation pitched well the last two seasons. But a year ago, Red Sox starters were 14th in the 15-team American League in ERA. The year before that, they were 10th.

It's not as if this group -- collectively speaking -- has a great track record. David Price will make them better, and they'll improve when Eduardo Rodriguez returns. But for now, the likes of Buchholz, Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly must provide more: More innnings, more confidence, more everything.

The offense has shouldered the load through the first week, scoring five or more runs in six of the seven games, and six or more in five of them. That the Red Sox find themselves below .500 cannot be hung on the hitters. They spent the road trip digging out of trenches dug by the starters and, through the first two games, have spent the homestand staking the team to multiple-run leads only to see them quickly dissolve.

Things need to stabilize in the rotation before the bullpen is overwhelmed. It's surely not a good sign that the starters have pitched only 10 more innings than the relievers.

Buchholz has yet to record an out in the sixth inning in either of his outings, resulting in too much work for the middle relievers. Noe Ramirez, Matt Barnes and Robbie Ross Jr. are wearing out the path from the bullpen to the mound, with one or more called upon nightly.

If the Sox were primarily going to their Big Three of Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel, that would be one thing. As high-leverage late-inning relievers, it's their job to take the baton from the starters and preserve a lead.

Too often, however, they're not factors because the Sox are playing from behind.

It's not as if expectations are being set unreasonably high for Buchholz and Co. A simple quality start -- six innings or more, three runs or fewer allowed -- would suffice. When Porcello pitched reasonably well last Saturday (four runs over six innings) it was enough for a Red Sox win, thanks to a productive offense.

Frankly, there aren't a lot of external options this early in the season. Calls for Dave Dombrowski to make a deal for a No. 2 starter aren't realistic in the second week of April, since other teams are not about to move pitching this early.

Henry Owens could have won the No. 5 spot in the spring, but his command was off, as it sometimes is early in the season. Roenis Elias was battered around in his start for Pawtucket Tuesday night.

For now, the Red Sox are going to have to win with what they have. That may not sound like much of a remedy, but it's the truth.

In the meantime, doomsday predictions that the season is over constitute little more than white noise. And the dismissive, self-satisfied assertions of the players reflect tin ears and a lack of common sense.

Somewhere in the middle of the extreme stances lies the answer.

Strong Grapefruit League debut for Price

Strong Grapefruit League debut for Price

David Price's Grapefruit League debut was nearly perfect.

The Red Sox left-hander pitched four scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and striking out five in a 7-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in Fort Myers, Fla.

Price threw 55 pitches, 34 for strikes. He cruised through the first on nine pitches. He allowed the single and walk in the second.  

"It feels good. This is March 15 and I've never been able to have a four-pitch mix on March 15," Price told reporters after his start. "I've never been this far along in spring training even though I've only thrown in one game. I'm excited about that."

The Red Sox open March 29 at Tampa Bay, with Chris Sale likely to start. Price will likely pitch the second game of the season, March 30 at Tropicana Field.