Alex Cora

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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Alex Cora: Eduardo Rodriguez has been "throwing like an ace" all season

Alex Cora: Eduardo Rodriguez has been "throwing like an ace" all season

After another superb outing against the Phillies Saturday night, Eduardo Rodriguez earned high praise from his manager Alex Cora. 

"He’s throwing like an ace," Cora said on NESN postgame. "We’re very happy with the progress. The fact that it’s Sept. 14, 15, and he’s as strong as early in the season. That’s good to see.”

Rodriguez didn't secure his 18th win of the year thanks to a seventh-inning walk with the bases loaded, but that doesn't take away from a 12-strikeout performance.

Rodriguez now has a 3.64 ERA in over 185 innings pitched. The Sox need Rodriguez to come into his own if they hope to stay in contention long term, and he continues to show progress toward reaching his potential. 

Rodriguez still has a chance to get to 20 wins, but he'll have to win each of the three starts he has left in 2019. 

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Alex Cora commends Xander Bogaerts' consistency after reaching 50-double mark

Alex Cora commends Xander Bogaerts' consistency after reaching 50-double mark

After Xander Bogaerts reached the 30-home-run, 50-double mark for the first time in his career Thursday night against the Blue Jays, Alex Cora commended his shortstop's consistency throughout a turbulent season for the Red Sox. 

"We’re very proud of him," Cora said. "It’s not only the numbers it’s the consistency of him showing up every day, and the routine, and being a leader, and understanding what he means to the organization.

"For a quote-unquote bad season, he’s been showing up every day."

Bogaerts became the second shortstop in baseball history to hit 30 home runs and 50 doubles in a single season, with the other being Alex Rodrigues in 1996.

The 26-year-old superstar also joined teammate Rafael Devers as the first pair of Red Sox to record 50 doubles in one season. Only two other teams have accomplished that feat are the 2000 Rockies (Todd Helton and Jeff Cirillo) and the 1996 Mariners (Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez).

Bogaerts has been a rock in the Red Sox lineup throughout an up-and-down campaign. It's a near certainty that Boston will not get the chance to defend its World Series championship past the regular season, which is a real shame considering the type of numbers Bogaerts and Devers have put up to carry this lineup. 

However, with Bogaerts locked up for the next six years, Red Sox fans can get used to seeing him at short and get excited about how much better he can become over time. The uncertainty comes with who'll be batting around him in the lineup, because the Red Sox' finances will force them into some tough decisions in the next few years. 

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