Last season, the Boston Red Sox had one of the worst starting rotations in all of baseball.
After Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez were knocked out for the season, the team lacked any sort of depth behind Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez. Those two posted ERAs of 3.72 and 4.50 respectively.
The rest of the Red Sox rotation and bullpen? It wasn't nearly as pretty, and that's part of the reason that the Sox finished the 2020 campaign with the third-worst ERA (5.58) in the league. They trailed only the Colorado Rockies, who play at the notoriously hitter-friendly Coors Field, and the lowly Detroit Tigers.
But ahead of the 2021 season, the team's rotation is shaping up to be better, and manager Alex Cora expressed faith in them amid their recent stretch of strong spring training performances.
"I do believe it’s a solid rotation. You see the guys, their track records and the upside. We’re very comfortable with it," Cora said, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe.
"I do believe this group, how deep we are, is going to help navigate the season. I feel pretty confident. That’s one of the reasons we have a complete team. These guys, they’re going to give us innings. They’re going to keep us in ballgames."
That would certainly be a welcome change for Boston. Beyond Eovaldi and Perez, the plethora of starters the Red Sox tried -- including Zack Godley, Chris Mazza, Ryan Weber, and Kyle Hart -- just couldn't manage to get deep into games consistently.
This season, with Rodriguez healthy and offseason additions Garrett Richards and Nick Pivetta joining the fray, the team's five-man unit should go deeper into games. And if they deal with injuries, guys like Matt Andriese and Tanner Houck can fill in and provide innings as needed in spot starts.
As Eovaldi pointed out, having starters that can eat innings will provide a boost for the bullpen.
"It helps the bullpen. They get to relax a little bit more and they get to focus on what they have to do," Eovaldi said. "They’re not walking around on eggshells and [saying], ‘Hey, we’ve got to be ready to go in possibly the third, fourth inning. They can relax, watch the game and be locked in.
"You know your role in those situations, and it makes it easier to pitch."
Certainly, things have looked easier for Boston's pitching staff during spring training. Their starters are still ramping up to get ready to go deep in games, but in their last six games, starters have pitched 22 innings and have posted a 3.68 ERA while striking out 25.
If the Sox starters can continue to produce at that pace as they lengthen out, that will be a good sign for the team as they look to get back on track following a disappointing 2020 campaign.