BALTIMORE -- It's doubtful that Dave Dombrowski has been fooled, but the Red Sox offensive fireworks over the past month may have obscured -- to some at least -- the fact that the team's starting rotation is still decidedly sub-par.
That's easy to forget when the Red Sox are scoring six, eight or 10 runs per night, as they have for much of the past five weeks.
The Sox finished May at 18-10, despite the fact they allowed one fewer run this (123) than last May (124), when they were 10-19. Why? Because they scored 192 runs, or 110 more runs than a year ago.
The offense has helped cover up a multitude of pitching sins. But that's not always a winning formula.
In fact, it wasn't one Wednesday night when the Red Sox cranked out a season-high five homers, sprayed 15 hits around Camden Yards and still managed to lose by four runs.
That'll happen when your staff issues nine walks. That'll happen when your starter fails to get through the third inning.
Actually, make that ex-starter, since Joe Kelly was optioned to Pawtucket immediately after the game.
That's two starters forcibly removed from the rotation in the past six days, with Clay Buchholz demoted to the bullpen last Friday.
The Red Sox still own a two-game lead in the American League East and the best record in the American League. But it's foolhardy to believe that's going to continue if the starting pitching isn't reinforced.
And make no mistake: that's a real need.
The Sox' rotation currently sports a collective 4.74 ERA. That figure is somewhat inflated by nights like Wednesday night. But there have been too many games in which the starter allows five or six runs.
With the return of Eduardo Rodriguez, it would seem that the Sox are set in four spots -- David Price, Steven Wright, Rick Porcello and Rodriguez.
Price has been more like himself in his past four outings, having corrected some mechanical flaws. Porcello has been consistent and capable of pitching into the seventh with regularity. And Wright has given the Sox nine quality starts in 10 tries.
But not only is one spot glaringly deficient, it's also without any obvious internal candidates.
Henry Owens pitched pitched better in his last Triple A start, but must show better command over a longer period of time. Brian Johnson is sidelined with mental health issues and Roenis Elias, also sharper of late after Pawtucket pitching coach Bob Kipper suggested some tweaks to his delivery, must also demonstrate more consistency.
Further, it's not reasonable to take for granted that Price, Wright, Porcello and Rodriguez will each remain healthy in the coming weeks and months. If one of that quartet is sidelined, the pitching depth becomes that much more precarious.
That said, it's doubtful that there are any external options available in the near future. Trade discussions don't begin in earnest until after next week's amateur draft, and even then, the introduction of the second wild card has served to convince even failing teams that, maybe, just maybe, they still have a shot to contend.
That further delays the trade talk until mid-July.
Can the Red Sox hold on until then? Perhaps.
But it's hard to know which is more unlikely -- that the Sox continue to score a record-setting pace, enough to outbash their opponents; or that from among candidates in the organization, an answer can be found to bolster the rotation.