Red Sox

Red Sox place Chris Sale (elbow) on IL, call up Ryan Brasier to take his place

Red Sox place Chris Sale (elbow) on IL, call up Ryan Brasier to take his place

Chris Sale's frustrating season continued on Saturday evening.

The Boston Red Sox starter, who sports a 6-11 record and a career-worst 4.40 ERA, was placed on the 10-day IL with left elbow inflammation. The team confirmed this on Twitter and stated that Ryan Brasier would be called up to replace Sale.  

To make matters worse for Sale, Dave Dombrowski confirmed that Dr. James Andrews will be taking a look at Sale's MRI and Sale could even visit the renowned orthopedic surgeon. That could be a red flag that Sale has a bigger issue, as pitchers often visit Dr. Andrews to get second opinions about Tommy John surgery, per Jason Mastrodonato of The Boston Herald.

Dombrowski was noncommittal about Sale pitching again in 2019, so this situation will need to be monitored over the course of the coming week.

Sale joins teammate and fellow starter, David Price, on the IL. Price is dealing with a wrist injury caused by a cyst. Price may need surgery on the malady this offseason if the cortisone shot he received doesn't break up the cyst.

With both Sale and Price out, the Red Sox' starting rotation gets thinner, and that will make keeping pace in the Wild Card race a bit more difficult. With Andrew Cashner now pitching out of the bullpen, Eduardo Rodriguez and Rick Porcello are the only two true starters in the rotation. Guys like Brian Johnson, Cashner, and Nathan Eovaldi do have starting experience, but only Cashner is currently stretched out to take on a starter's workload. Still, members of that trio may be asked to start until either Sale or Price can return.

Meanwhile, Brasier will return to the big-league club for the first time since he lasted just 2/3 of an inning in a four-run appearance on July 15 against the Toronto Blue Jays. Brasier has a 2-3 record and 4.46 ERA in 44 appearances with the Red Sox, but struggles with consistency prompted his demotion.

Brasier seems to be back on the right track now. In 10 appearances for Pawtucket, he is 2-0 with a minuscule 0.96 ERA and 13 strikeouts. The Red Sox will hope that he can return to the form he held last year when he was a key late-inning bullpen option en route to the team's World Series victory.

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Ron Roenicke explains why he's hidden radar gun readings at JetBlue Park

Ron Roenicke explains why he's hidden radar gun readings at JetBlue Park

Ron Roenicke dislikes baseball's current obsession with velocity, so he has removed the tool that feeds his pitchers' counterproductive cycle of gratification and mortification — the radar gun.

Attend a game at JetBlue Park this spring, and you'll notice the familiar scoreboard velocity readings are missing. That's by design, Roenicke explained to reporters in Fort Myers on Friday morning, because at this point in camp, no good can come of overextending.

"You guys all see what pitchers do," Roenicke said. "They throw a pitch, then it's rub here and the eye is right on the radar. Right now, that's not a good thing. So I think as much as we can stay, and I realize the fans want that radar up there, we'll get it up there when Bushy feels like, OK, they're beyond the point, we can start putting it up there."

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Bushy is pitching coach Dave Bush, and he brings an analytical bent to the job, but also experience as a veteran of nine seasons, including a pair of 12-win campaigns with the Brewers in the mid-2000s.

The Red Sox have struggled to keep their pitchers from overthrowing early in the spring over the years, with ace Chris Sale memorably hitting 99 mph in his very first Grapefruit League appearance in 2017.

"It's there. It's real," Roenicke said. "You see it in every big league game. A pitcher comes into the game, he throws that first pitch, and those eyes are right up on the radar. When they don't see what they are used to seeing, maybe if a guy is 95 and all of a sudden he looks up there and sees 92, he's like, 'Whoa.' Whether he's going to throw harder on that next pitch or what, it makes a difference."

Roenicke played during an era when craftiness and guile were as valued as velocity, with pitchers like Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine living on the black and winning with pinpoint command. It may help explain why Roenicke is so impressed with right-hander Ryan Weber, a longshot fifth starter candidate who rarely breaks 90 mph, but throws a curveball and sinker with considerable movement.

With teams prioritizing big arms above all else in the draft, Roenicke worries about a generation of kids obsessing over throwing rather than pitching.

"When I was young, I didn't even know what a radar gun was," he said. "I just tried to pitch to get guys out, pitch to the corners where guys didn't seem to hit the baseball. Now they're pitching to velocity. You're seeing it in Little League. You're seeing it in radar guns all the way through." 

A kid, if in his mind he's thinking about playing professionally, it's max. It's max effort to throw the baseball. Max effort doesn't last if you do this all the way up through. You just can't last. It scares me.

Roenicke hopes teams don't shy away from the Webers of the world, pitchers with unconventional repertoires who nonetheless show some potential. He'd like to see soft, cerebral throwers win games so the pendulum swings back.

"If we see pitchers come up and they are successful and being able to hit spots again, I think if that happens, yeah," he said. "I hope they continue to give those guys chances. So if you're in college and your record is whatever, 15-3 but you only throw 88, I hope we still continue to give those guys a chance."

So don't go look for radar gun readings in Fort Myers this spring, because for now, they're nowhere to be seen.

Could Red Sox add another starter to fill out rotation? Here are their options

Could Red Sox add another starter to fill out rotation? Here are their options

As it stands now, the Boston Red Sox will enter the 2020 season with three starting pitchers.

That's not ideal, but it's the current reality after Thursday's news that Chris Sale will begin the year on the injured list.

So, how will the Red Sox fill out their rotation around Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi and newcomer Martin Perez?

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Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom said earlier this month the team will look to add more pitching depth, and the Sale development obviously hasn't changed that stance.

Sale only is expected to miss about two weeks, so the Red Sox don't seem ready to make a reactionary signing. But considering they don't have a fifth starter anyway, adding another arm makes sense.

Which begs the question: Who's still out there?

Here's a list of starting pitchers who remain unsigned, sorted by age (via MLB.com).

Aaron Sanchez (27)
Danny Salazar (30)
Matt Harvey (31)
Andrew Cashner (33)
Clay Buchholz (35)
Marco Estrada (36)
Clayton Richard (36)
Jason Vargas (37)

Doesn't inspire much confidence, does it?

The good news is that these pitchers could be signed for relative bargains. The bad news is that only two are 30 years old or younger and none posted very inspiring stat lines in 2019.

In fact, Buchholz isn't a terrible option compared to the rest of the list: The former Red Sox hurler struggled with the Toronto Blue Jays last season but sported a 2.01 ERA over 16 starts with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018.

Given the dry free agent market, though, it's possible Boston could look to the trade market -- the club reportedly covets Cal Quantrill in trade talks with the San Diego Padres, although that deal seems unlikely -- or an internal solution.

Ryan Weber, Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez are candidates for the fifth starter slot, and Darwinzon Hernandez could be a potential option down the road, although the Red Sox don't view him as a starter at the moment.

Long story short: Unless the Sox want to part with more assets in a trade, they won't be slotting a quality pitcher into their rotation anytime soon.