BOSTON — The party could begin as early as Thursday night at Fenway Park. If the Sox want the clubhouse disco to extend into October, there’s an obvious choice to make with their Division Series roster.
All this hand-wringing over which pitcher starts what game is a little unnecessary. Because all three guys who seem uncertain — Doug Fister, Eduardo Rodriguez and Rick Porcello — should be on the roster, even if it means carrying 12 pitchers, and John Farrell must be fearless yanking any of the three almost immediately.
Only two members of that back-end trio will be in line to make an actual start in the DS (as long as it gets to four games this time). Here’s betting the starters will be Rodriguez and Porcello.
But the odd man out, whoever it is, in effect remains a starter: a tandem starter held in reserve. The back-up.
Fister, for example, might not make a start. But if he bails out Rodriguez and goes longer than Rodriguez on the day E-Rod started, what’s the difference?
Wednesday’s 10-7 win over the Blue Jays only hammered home how much the Sox need an insurance plan. Porcello was again bit by poor location and home runs. The 38 he allowed this year ties him for the Red Sox single-season record.
The Sox offense bailed out Porcello and Farrell this time let Porcello stick around, but the hook should come quick in the postseason.
All of Fister, Rodriguez and Porcello are implosion risks. Rodriguez has the highest upside of the bunch, at least when it comes to swing-and-miss stuff. Porcello has become so homer happy that starting him in a presumed match-up with the Astros, who have an excellent offense, is a frightening proposition. Fister’s been inconsistent, but he does keep the ball on the ground at a 50.2 percent clip.
Say the choice comes down to Fister or Porcello for a start. Fister’s prior experience in the bullpen could be a deciding factor here, that and the sense that a contact pitcher like him is more vulnerable to having something go wrong.
David Price is indeed a starter in the bullpen. Why do you need another, you ask? Price is not there to bail out a starter. He could do so, sure, but he’s best used as a late-inning, high-leverage bridge.
Even Drew Pomeranz all of a sudden feels like less of a certainty because his velocity has dropped. If he’s throwing 89-90 mph and getting hit hard in his start, there has to be someone the Sox can turn to.
The Sox carried all five starters on last year’s playoff roster. More than in 2016, the game plan this year for the Sox is built around pitching, not hobbled hitters.
Dustin Pedroia returned to the lineup Wednesday and Mookie Betts said he feels like he can on Thursday. Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez may be perking up at just the right time. But the formula is unchanged.
The roulette game with Rodriguez, Fister and Porcello will get a lot of hype. Whoever the “loser" is could actually wind up more important than the other two, riding in from the bullpen to save the day.
He has to be on the roster first to jump on his white horse.