Red Sox

Red Sox

Here are Sean McAdam's three thoughts from the Boston Red Sox 18-7 loss to the Orioles on Sunday.

1) How much more time will Wade Miley get?

The entire Red Sox rotation has been suspect, but Miley has clearly performed worst of all.

On Sunday, for the second time in four tries, he was knocked out after just 2 1/3 innings, having allowed -- again -- seven runs in that brief span, just as he did on April 15.

Miley has a 8.62 ERA and has provided a grand total of 15 2/3 innings in four starts. When a starter isn't even averaging four innings per outing, that's trouble.

As troubling as Miley's start was Sunday, it was equally disconcerting that he didn't have a lot of explanations. It wasn't mental, he said. Nor was it necessarily mechanical.

Somewhat understandably, Miley kept saying that he had to put this disastrous game behind him and start worrying about the next one.

One poor start might be easier to forget. Clay Buchholz turned in a legendary stinker in his second start of the season, but has since rebounded to pitch fairly well in his two subsequent outings.

Miley seems lost, and so, too, do the Red Sox when it comes to figuring out what to do with him, or what their alternatives are.

Miley has said he's not hurt, that there's no physical issue, so stashing him on the DL to buy time for a tuneup might be problematic.

For fans screaming that he should be released, that won't happen. After dealing for Miley in December, the Red Sox effectively double-downed on him and gave him a three-year deal worth $19.25 million that carries through the 2017 season. They're not about to eat that, nor are they going to find any takers for him a deal, given how poorly he's pitching.

 

The likely path will to be give Miley his next turn -- Saturday against the Yankees -- and re-evaulate. If there's not much improvement, he could be shifted to the bullpen to work things out there, and, in between, work on the side.

It's not much of an action plan, but given the circumstances, it's about all the Red Sox have.

2) Yes Miley was bad Sunday, but the bullpen may have been worse.

After Miley was shelled for seven runs before the end of the third inning, the game seemed almost out of reach.

Then again, even though they came almost as an afterthought, the Red Sox did rally to score seven runs in the final three innings. Argue that they didn't matter because the Sox trailed by a dozen runs before they managed their first, but the seven runs served as a reminder that, with the offense they have, games are seldom unwinnable for the Red Sox, no matter the size of the early-game deficit.

Of course, that's only true if the bullpen does its job. On Sunday, that was most assuredly not the case. The four relievers who followed Miley to the mound all allowed the Orioles to keep adding to their lead. Not until Edward Mujica pitched the eighth did a member of the bullpen provide a scoreless inning.

And yes, the bullpen has been overtaxed so far, precisely because of starts like Miley's Sunday. Their 71 1/3 innings places them second in innings pitched in all of baseball.

But on Sunday, each pitcher was going on at least a day's rest and still, they turned in one ineffective performance after another. In spring training, I made the observation that the bullpen could be more of a trouble spot than the rotation, a notion that hasn't exactly been disproved through the first three weeks.

Koji Uehara has looked suspect, with his fastball velocity down alarmingly and his signature splitter uninspiring. Anthony Varvaro has seem himself forced into the role of long reliever by necessity and hasn't established a rhythm.

Mujica has been wildly inconsistent, as has Robbie Ross Jr. Craig Breslow had bounced back from a poor 2014 -- until Sunday. Only Alexi Ogando and Junichi Tazawa have been impressive, and the Sox are already worried about overworking him, having gone to him four times in a span of five days on this road trip.

Not that one move would change the fortunes of the pen at this point, but the Red Sox' decision to not match the Yankees dollar-for-dollar to bring back Andrew Miller is looking more and more suspect every day.

3) The one consolation: the offense hasn't yet clicked.

 

No amount of production is going to cancel out games in which the opponents score 18, but the Red Sox really haven't broken out as a lineup and can be expected to deliver more in the upcoming weeks and months.

David Ortiz hasn't gotten untracked, but will. Mike Napoli didn't homer until Saturday, and neither had Xander Bogaerts. The Sox have gotten nothing out of Shane Victorino, and precious little in terms of sock from either of the alternatives -- Daniel Nava and Allen Craig. The latter two have combined for exactly one (1) extra- base hit in 63 at-bats. Pablo Sandoval has no hits from the right side and mostly singles (15 of his 18 hits) from the left side.

All can be expected to improve, to varying degrees. Only Hanley Ramirez has produced consistenty.

Despite the underperformance of the lineup, the Red Sox have averaged exactly five runs per game. That will tick up.

But again, it won't tick up enough to cover pitching disasters like Sunday.