BOSTON — Chris Sale started a throwing program on Monday’s off-day. Eduardo Rodriguez made his first minor league rehab start, throwing four shutout innings, allowing two hits, two walks and fanning six for Double-A Portland. Rick Porcello and Nate Eovaldi are not pitching at their best at the moment, but David Price is. Steven Wright has his own rehab assignment beginning Tuesday.
The Red Sox haven’t been scoring enough lately to win much. Even if they had been, the rotation is low on the team’s worry list, probably lowest. The starters were all along intended to be this team’s bedrock, and have proven to be just that. The upswing — pun intended — in offense on the season has garnered a lot of attention, and will continue as Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez jockey for American League MVP honors, and as the latter vies for the Triple Crown.
Nonetheless, the Red Sox have a 3.71 ERA from their starters, seventh best in the majors entering Monday, and third best in the American League. They're behind only the Indians (3.44) and — lo and behold — the Rays (3.68), who delivered the Sox their first sweep of the season over the weekend.
The second-half Sox rotation has actually been even better than the first few months, with a 3.50 ERA since the All-Star Break.
Eovaldi has allowed 35 hits and 14 earned runs in his last 17 innings, a four-start span that represents a big departure from his first two starts. Porcello has a 5.72 ERA in his last eight starts, with home runs starting to bite him again.
But not every starter is going to pitch well indefinitely. Mostly, that's what's happened.
Consider that in a 38-game span from July 2 through July 17, the Sox had the AL’s lowest rotation ERA, at 2.93. A slow stretch is not reason for alarm just because the Sox have rarely had slow stretches this season.
One area Sale’s absence with shoulder inflammation has hurt the Sox is actually in reliever usage.
“You start looking at the bullpen and I like length, I like Hector [Velazquez] and [Brian Johnson], like earlier in the season, we had them — I don’t want to say stop the bleeding right away — but we can actually go to a guy early in the game and kind of like give us a chance to win," manager Alex Cora told reporters in Florida over the weekend. "Now, because of where we're at, stick with the starter a little bit longer in those situations. And it’s kind of hard to bring somebody for length and then if something happens, you don’t have somebody."