Red Sox

Say hello to a 21-man Red Sox pitching staff and goodbye to what we think of as baseball

Say hello to a 21-man Red Sox pitching staff and goodbye to what we think of as baseball

BOSTON -- The Red Sox bullpen looked like a packed rush-hour Green Line train. Crossing the clubhouse meant navigating a toppled Jenga stack of spare lockers. Forget about a magnifying glass -- the four-point type on the official roster required a scanning electron microscope.

"Are we having fun yet?!" Adam Scott's Henry Pollard asked plaintively on the Starz cult classic "Party Down", but in terms of virality, the final three weeks of the Red Sox season are taking on the feel of "Too Many Cooks," the Adult Swim earworm that parodied 1990s sitcom themes -- first by never ending, and then by leaving everyone in a pool of blood (don't ask).

Baseball plans to address the issue of September roster chum next year, when each team will only be able to carry three extra players. The Red Sox seem to be operating with a self-imposed 28-man limit, but just barely, and that is the embarrassing number of pitchers on the roster.

On Wednesday, they recalled four relievers they had already sent home for the winter, bringing the number of active arms to 21. That number again: TWENTY-ONE. That's every healthy pitcher on the 40-man roster except Double-A right-hander Denyi Reyes, who should probably keep his phone on vibrate, just in case.

While some teams might be ashamed to carry so many arms, the Red Sox have little choice. They refuse to concede, which means they need all the help they can get. Outside of left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, their starting pitchers are either injured (Chris Sale), ineffective (Rick Porcello), or nonexistent.

So, with a little more than three weeks remaining and the playoffs somewhere just shy of a pipe dream, Cora offers no apologies for the parade of pitching changes that will almost certainly be inflicted upon us for the rest of the month.

Buckle up, and bring your traveling neck pillow.

"We're going winter ball style," Cora said. "That's how we're going to do it. The games, instead of four hours, they're going to be five hours. Keep the fans away from the..."

Cora's voice trailed off in recognition that even in jest, he probably shouldn't verbalize just how ugly the rest of the month could get. He knows this is a ridiculous use of the roster, but it is one afforded him by the rules, and the only alternative is to run his most effective relievers into a reef and watch them sink.

That's life on a team with horrible starting pitching. The Red Sox will try to bullpen their way to October, and that requires bodies. Lots and lots of bodies.

So on Wednesday, they summoned right-handers Colten Brewer, Trevor Kelley, and Mike Shawaryn, as well as left-hander Bobby Poyner, who had been freed to head home when the Triple-A season ended on Monday. They join a bullpen that already includes Jhoulys Chacin, Travis Lakins, Ryan Weber, and Hector Velazquez. Outside of the recently signed Chacin, that's a veritable Who's Who of pitchers you probably only vaguely remember, and not necessarily positively.

"We talked about it last night," Cora said. "Obviously, it's not perfect, but our starters are not giving us enough. We need matchups, we need arms, we're going to try to maximize Brewer's cutter and Shawaryn's slider and Bobby's fastball up and Kelley's side-arm pitches. We're trying to look for outs.

"Luckily I work in an organization that, we're not going to tap out, we're not going to wave the white flag and we're going to keep pushing," Cora added.

While the organization's motivation is entirely understandable -- ugly wins are wins just the same -- that doesn't mean we have to feel great about watching it. At a time when baseball should be selling the drama of pennant races, it instead shovels compost in our faces.

The Red Sox, who now run seven lines deep in the bullpen, will be leading that charge unapologetically, though in the 6-2 victory Wednesday night over the Twins, Cora still leaned on stalwarts Josh Taylor, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Brandon Workman.

"The rules are the rules," Cora said. "Next year, you can't do that. It's probably not the first time that's ever happened in the game, so I don't feel bad about it."

The box scores are about to get crowded. Given the limitations of their roster, the Red Sox see no other options.

 
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White Sox pitching coach 'concerned' about ex-Red Sox prospect Michael Kopech

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File photo

White Sox pitching coach 'concerned' about ex-Red Sox prospect Michael Kopech

As some MLB players choose to not participate in the 2020 season, it's important to remember some things are bigger than baseball.

Chicago White Sox pitcher and former Boston Red Sox prospect Michael Kopech missed the start of camp due to a "personal matter," and he recently made the decision to opt out of the upcoming campaign. It's unclear exactly why Kopech opted out, but the 24-year-old has been open about his battles with anxiety and depression. For that reason, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper expressed his concern about Kopech's well-being.

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"I don't know what is going on with Michael, but I know he deals with some anxiety and depression, and my thought is, I sure hope he's OK," Cooper told the Chicago Sun-Times. "And I hope he gets to where he needs to be, where he's feeling good and wants to come back, because we will welcome him back with open arms."

"Last time I saw him in spring training, he was in a great place," Cooper added. "But let me put it this way: I sure hope the kid is OK. I'm concerned that he's not OK."

Kopech has not publicly discussed his decision to sit out of the upcoming season. Cooper notes the right-hander is "not in the mood to talk right now" to the media.

After missing the entire 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery, Kopech was slated to compete for a spot in the White Sox rotation. Of course, his mental health comes first, and we hope he returns to Chicago's pitching staff in 2021 under better circumstances.

"It's Michael's decision, and we have no idea what's going on in his world, and as a team, we support him 100 percent," White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon told the Sun-Times. "It's a tough loss. He's a guy who can boost our rotation or wherever he would line up in the row of arms. But looking forward to having him back next year."

Kopech was involved in the five-player trade that brought Chris Sale to the Red Sox in 2016.

Ron Roenicke sheds light on plans for Red Sox starting rotation

Ron Roenicke sheds light on plans for Red Sox starting rotation

The Boston Red Sox starting rotation is going to look a lot different during the shortened 2020 season.

With Chris Sale out due to Tommy John surgery and David Price now on the Los Angeles Dodgers, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will be counted on to anchor the pitching staff. Then, it'll be Nathan Eovaldi and newcomer Martin Perez in the No. 2 and 3 spots.

After that are are a couple of question marks. Right-hander Collin McHugh, who signed a one-year deal with Boston in March, likely will miss some time to begin the season as he continues to rehab his injured elbow. That leaves the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation wide open.

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After the team's intrasquad scrimmage Sunday, manager Ron Roenicke told reporters that southpaw Brian Johnson is a candidate for the No. 4 spot and he may roll with an "opener" in the No. 5 slot.

So in order, the starting rotation to begin the season would be:

1. Eduardo Rodriguez
2. Nathan Eovaldi
3. Martin Perez
4. Brian Johnson
5. Opener/TBD

Right-hander Ryan Weber is expected to be in the mix as well, but how he'll fit into the rotation remains to be seen.

It definitely doesn't look like pitching will be a strength for Boston in its 60-game campaign. Making matters even more difficult is Rodriguez's positive COVID-19 test, which could further complicate things to start the season.

Opening Day for the Red Sox is scheduled for July 24 vs. the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park.