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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Alex Cora: Red Sox ending David Price's season 'the smart thing to do'

Alex Cora: Red Sox ending David Price's season 'the smart thing to do'

David Price's 2019 season is done.

Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora confirmed before Wednesday night's game against the San Francisco Giants at Fenway Park that the left-handed starter will not pitch again for the remainder of the year.

"We're going to shut him down," Cora told reporters. "We're going to take care of and see what's going on with the cyst. Also check his wrist. If there's something else, we'll take care of that. It's a head start to next year. It's the smart thing to do."

Cora later added: "Where we're at, and obviously how important he is, it's better off moving forward and getting him right."

The Red Sox are 9.5 games behind the second wild-card playoff spot in the American League, so it makes sense to give Price the rest of the year to address injuries and begin building toward the 2020 season.

Price pitched only twice since July 30, and he didn't make it past the third inning in either outing. He finishes 2019 with a 7-5 record, a 4.28 ERA, 128 strikeouts and 32 walks over 107 1/3 innings.

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Red Sox rotation hasn't even hit rock bottom, which portends disaster in 2020

Red Sox rotation hasn't even hit rock bottom, which portends disaster in 2020

BOSTON -- The Red Sox have devoted more than $400 million to the top three pitchers in their rotation.

Whoever takes over as GM this winter will be lucky to find $10 million for their replacements.

Tuesday highlighted what kind of challenge awaits the baseball operations department. Before an endless 7-6 loss to the Giants in 15 innings, manager Alex Cora revealed that left-hander David Price ($217 million) might need offseason surgery to address a cyst on his left wrist. He also noted that fellow southpaw Chris Sale ($145 million) remains in Fort Myers and isn't yet due for a follow-up with Dr. James Andrews to ascertain the state of his troublesome elbow, though he'll meet the team in Tampa this weekend.

Once the game started, right-hander Nathan Eovaldi ($68 million) allowed five runs on seven hits, including a pair of homers, in only four innings. His ERA rose to 6.19 and the best he could say was that he had made a memory for Mike Yastrzemski, serving up a mammoth homer to straightaway center for the grandson of Yaz.

It's hard to overstate just how dire an issue the rotation is setting up to be next season. The Red Sox are stuck in a position where their current starters are immovable from a salary standpoint and unreliable from a physical one. 

The team must count on them to deliver while also planning for the eventuality that anywhere from one to three of them probably won't.

To quote the great Dennis Eckersley: "Yuck."

When we talk about Dave Dombrowski leaving the Red Sox in a hole, what we're really talking about is the rotation. The offense will be stacked even if J.D. Martinez or Mookie Betts depart this winter. (Losing both would be a different story...) The starting rotation, however, is shaping up like one giant cinderblock that's about to drag down the entire roster.

So what can the Red Sox do? The prospect of replacing any one of the Big Three with an opener every five days is distasteful, and the Red Sox shouldn't subject their fans to it, not with one of the few legitimate big-market payrolls in the game. Leave the openers to the Tampas and Oaklands of the world (although they are playoff teams …). The Red Sox should be able to afford five serviceable starters.

The problem is they might need eight. That means scouring the non-tender wire and the shallow end of the free agency pool to find arms that can basically form a shadow rotation in support of the one that we can only trust with a giant leap of faith.

Any surgery Price might need sounds minor, but once that ball starts rolling...

"That's something we're going to talk about, if that's an option, if we need it," Cora said. "Obviously [the injury] has limited him as far as being able to compete and I think it actually kind of limited him when he was pitching, what he was able to do. We saw it with command and that's not him. He can get hit, that's part of it. But with command, he was way off. He didn't have that two-seamer in the whole season and that's a pitch that throughout his career, he always aced it. That's a pitch, a put-away pitch against right-handed hitters and he didn't have it. We'll talk about it. We'll see what we're going to do. Obviously, everything that can benefit from him will be great for the organization."

Eovaldi, meanwhile, remains an enigma. He routinely hit 98 mph on Tuesday, but the Giants knocked him around anyway because he spent too much time down in the strike zone. His ERA ranks in the bottom 15 in baseball and his inability to stay healthy feels like a problem will only intensify as he ages.

"When he's dominating, when he got here last year against the Twins, he was up [in the zone]," Cora said after the game. "Against the Yankees, the eight innings, it was up in the zone. Against the Dodgers, in the playoffs, it was up in the zone. We have to do that. We live in an era that if you pitch on plane, the guys are going to catch up regardless of whether you're throwing 100 or 91. There's a lot of foul balls, too. That's part of the mix.  There's nothing we can do with that. But we'll get it right, we'll finish on a positive note, and he'll be ready for the offseason to work on the things that he has to work, and he's a guy that is very important for us in the coming years."

As for Sale, we still don't know if he needs Tommy John surgery. What we do know is the longer the Red Sox wait to make a decision, the greater the likelihood that he'll miss two seasons instead of one if he goes under the knife.

That's a worst-case scenario, and the fact that Sale has felt well enough to play catch is encouraging, but let's be real: a bad shoulder effectively cost him the final three months of 2018, and a bad elbow shut him down this August.

Two years, two serious injuries. The Red Sox have no idea what to expect from Sale in 2020. The same can be said of Eovaldi. The same can be said of Price.

That's the heart and soul of your rotation. It's a massive percentage of your payroll. It's supposed to be the strength of your team.

That's a terrible place to be.

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