Roenis Elias

Red Sox notebook: Velazquez, Elias getting shots at fifth spot

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Red Sox notebook: Velazquez, Elias getting shots at fifth spot

FORT MYERS, Fla. - The starting pitchers for the Red Sox in the first two games of the Grapefruit League season, Hector Velazquez and Roenis Elias, are likely going to get major league opportunities in 2018 — and one of them very well might get a look in the first week of the season.

The first four starters the Red Sox will carry are obvious, assuming health: Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello. Alex Cora on Saturday declined to name an Opening Day starter, but Sale is the obvious choice after finishing second in American League Cy Young voting to Corey Kluber. Cora said too that he likely would insert Porcello somewhere in the middle of the rotation, considering the other three aforementioned starters are lefties.

Where the Sox go beyond those four, though, could be to some relatively unknown quantities. 

Steven Wright is rehabbing from knee surgery and awaiting potential discipline from the league office following an offseason arrest on a domestic assault charge. Wright could well be suspended to begin the season, and may not be physically ready to start on the active roster anyway. Eduardo Rodriguez’s own knee surgery has him slated to come back perhaps in late April. 

That puts righty Velazquez and lefty Elias in prime position for at least temporary contributions. Both are on the 40-man roster and have big league time. In a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Ray on Saturday, Elias pitched two scoreless innings on Saturday, just as Velazquez did Friday against the Minnesota Twins.

In past seasons, the Red Sox would often have an off-day after their very first game of the regular season, thereby allowing for a fifth starter to be skipped if desired. That’s not the case for this year, with six straight games for the Sox — three vs. the Rays, three vs. the Marlins — before an off-day. Come April 2, then, the Sox will need a fifth starter. 

(Whether the Sox even use off-days this year to skip pitchers or just to rest their guys is to be seen. Sale, for example, historically has pitched often on extra rest, and the Sox want to keep him fresh.)

Lefty Brian Johnson could wind up a reliever, but he’s certainly capable of starting. Lefty Jalen Beeks, who is not on the 40-man roster but likely will be at some point this year, is depth as well, just like righty Chandler Shepherd.


• The Sox did say long ago they wanted to add lefty reliever this winter. Now they’ve done it. As depth, anyway. Tommy Layne, last with the Sox in 2016, is back — in minor league camp without an invite to major league spring training. He was a free agent who participated in the camp the Players Association set up for unsigned players in Florida. Don't be surprised if Layne sees some time in big league games anyway.


One area of the Red Sox spring complex has four practice fields aligned, with each field’s home plate positioned at nearly the same point, angled 90 degrees differently. In the past, the Sox more frequently used all four fields at once for the same set of drills. Now, they’ve cut back. The reason is so that coaches can see players better. This way, a coach could catch 50 percent of one pitcher’s live batting-practice and 50 percent of another. Attention is spread too thin if three or four fields are going simultaneously. That was Tony La Russa’s suggestion.

• Rafael Devers has shown some very quick feet in the early going, making a great diving stop to his right on Thursday. On Saturday, he made another smooth play but then threw away a throw to second base.

“Just get one out,” Cora said. “He was trying to get two which is great. This level you’ve got to turn double plays but there there’s certain plays you cant force.”

• Players union head Tony Clark visited camp on Saturday, part of his annual tour to meet different teams. Clark defended the collective bargaining agreement, which has been criticized because it helped create the environment that led to many unsigned free agents.


McAdam: With Sale's arrival, Sox set to ship out other starting pitchers

McAdam: With Sale's arrival, Sox set to ship out other starting pitchers

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Now that they've done with additions, it may be time for the Red Sox to start subtracting.


Having obtained reliever Tyler Thornburg, starter Chris Sale and first baseman/DH Mitch Moreland, the Red Sox have addressed all of their obvious roster needs in one hectic day at the annual winter meetings.


President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski confirmed that the team is through looking for bullpen help, and the position players -- and reserves -- are all accounted for.

But the acquisition of Sale leaves the Red Sox with a total of seven established starting pitchers on their major league roster -- likely one too many.

"There's really not room for seven starters,'' conceded Dombrowski. "We also have three guys we like behind that - (Henry) Owens, (Roenis) Elias and (Brian) Johnson. So we're pretty deep in that regard at this point.

"As you know, you never have enough pitching. That's the old adage. But I would say that (moving one of the established starting pitchers) is something we'd at least be open-minded about.''

It just so happens that the Red Sox starting pitching surplus coincides with a particularly thin free agent class. Rich Hill, at 36 and with a ominous injury history, was the best starter available, but signed Monday with the Dodgers for three years, $48 million.

That leaves a mediocre group that is headed by Ivan Nova and a handful of other back-end arms.

The most logical starter for the Red Sox to market would be Clay Buchholz, since moving him would also relieve the team of his $13.5 million salary.

In other winters, the Sox might have to subsidize that salary in order to attract any bidders. But given that Buchholz would almost certainly earn more than that figure were he a free agent, it's likely the Sox can move Buchholz and his salary, too.

If Buchholz doesn't attract bidders, the Sox have an excess of lefthanders in the rotation and could move Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz is under control for two more seasons and being lefthanded won't hurt his marketability.

It's doubtful that the Sox would be tempted to shop Eduardo Rodriguez, since he makes virtually no money and at, 23, has the highest upside of any of the pitchers not named Sale, David Price or recent Cy Young winner Rick Porcello.

It may behoove the Sox to wait before moving a starter, since the longer they wait, the more teams could become desperate for rotation upgrades.

Red Sox recall Hembree, Hernandez and Marrero from PawSox


Red Sox recall Hembree, Hernandez and Marrero from PawSox

The Red Sox have recalled reliever Heath Hembree and infielders Marco Hernandez and Deven Marrero from Triple-A Pawtucket, filling roster spots that were opened when they placed first baseman Hanley Ramirez on the bereavement list and starter Steven Wright on the disabled list, and sent reliever Roenis Elias back to Pawtucket.

The Red Sox dropped two pitchers and a hitter, but brought up one pitcher and two hitters because they’re looking to stabilize their bench again -- especially with another long road trip (11 games in 11 days in four different cities) on tap.

“We’re looking to get back to a normal distribution on the roster -- trying to get back to 13 position players,” manager John Farrell said following Sunday’s win.

Hembree, the lone pitcher called up, has a 2.41 ERA with Boston in 37.1 innings. He started off the season strong, but was demoted on July 23 following a stretch of rough appearances.

“Yeah he’s not a confident pitcher right now,” Farrell said when Hembree was demoted. “As good as Heath has been for the vast majority of this year -- and clearly the whole first half -- the four times out since the break has been the other side of that."

Hernandez has hit .295 in his 29 games with the Red Sox this year.

Marrero, the likely candidate to be demoted when Ramirez returns, had one hit in his seven at-bats with the big league club this season.