RIck Porcello

Ex-Red Sox not named Mookie Betts off to lackluster starts across MLB

Ex-Red Sox not named Mookie Betts off to lackluster starts across MLB

Chaim Bloom had no choice but to deal Mookie Betts. The rest of the players he walked away from this winter were of his own volition, however, and on that front, it looks like he made some good calls.

Bloom elected to keep first baseman Mitch Moreland, who has already blasted three homers while slugging .762.

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Here's a quick check-in with the four others who played a regular role in recent years but are now elsewhere. (And Betts, for the record, is hitting .289 with an .880 OPS, though he has missed two games with a finger injury).

David Price

Bloom traded Price to the Dodgers alongside Betts in a salary dump. We won't know if he made the right call until Price returns to action next season, because he became the highest-profile player to opt out of the 2020 season after the pandemic hit.

That decision likely saved the Red Sox the roughly $6 million they owed of his prorated salary this year. Had he remained in Boston, there's no reason to think he still wouldn't have opted out, so the Red Sox were lucky to get something for him first.

Rick Porcello

Hoo boy. The Mets gave Porcello one year and $10 million, and some believed the Red Sox should've ponied up to keep him, figuring his reliability could help patch the holes in a thin rotation. Bloom thought otherwise, and two starts into Porcello's Mets career, it's hard to argue.

Porcello allowed seven runs in two innings in his debut, and wasn't much better in his second start on Friday in Atlanta, allowing four runs in four innings. He's sitting on a 13.50 ERA that would fit perfectly in Boston, unfortunately.

Brock Holt

The fan favorite utility guy languished for most of the winter before agreeing to a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Brewers. Bloom decided to allocate those resources instead to Jose Peraza, who is now the team's starting second baseman.

Holt has barely gotten off the bench in Milwaukee, going 0 for 4 in four appearances. At age 32, his best days are likely behind him. The 26-year-old Peraza has slumped badly since a four-hit debut, but he's a far superior defender at second and short.

Sandy Leon

Outside of a couple of good weeks in 2016, Leon is what he is offensively. Currently, that's a .105 hitter with the Indians.

He effectively traded roles in December with former Cleveland backup Kevin Plawecki, who's off to a 4-for-10 start that helped make two-time All-Star Jonathan Lucroy expendable.

These are the pitchers with the most to prove for the 2020 Red Sox

These are the pitchers with the most to prove for the 2020 Red Sox

Two short years ago, the Red Sox opened the season with two Cy Young Award winners, a six-time All-Star, and a future 19-game winner in their rotation.

Now the 19-game winner is all that remains, and he's going to miss the start of the season with COVID-19.

As we concoct scenarios for the Red Sox to reach the playoffs during this 60-game sprint of a season, we keep hitting the same wall — how will they overcome a rotation that has been decimated by trades, free agency, and injury?

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The answer lies with a host of pitchers with something to prove.

There's ace left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who's coming off a career-high 19 wins and a sixth-place finish in the Cy Young race. He remains in Florida on the injured list, awaiting clearance to rejoin the team after a positive COVID test.

There's right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, a 2018 postseason hero who lost most of 2019 to an elbow injury. He'll almost certainly take the ball on Opening Day next week against the Orioles and he must remain healthy for 12 starts and pitch like a No. 1 if the Red Sox are to have any realistic chance of contending.

Those two will be followed by castoffs like left-hander Martin Perez, who hasn't posted an ERA below 4.82 since 2016, as well as throwback right-hander Ryan Weber and perhaps eventually the rehabbing Collin McHugh. They could be joined shortly by right-hander Zack Godley, who has been released twice in the last year and is reportedly nearing a deal.

That's a lot of flotsam and jetsam for an erstwhile contender, but it is the hand the Red Sox must play. After all, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Chris Sale aren't walking through that door.

"You talk about our pitching staff, we really are going to need length with Eduardo not being ready, with Chris Sale being out for the year," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We've got to have innings from people and what we see is our strength in our bullpen now is that we do have guys that go multiple innings. ... All these guys are valuable, especially when you don't have a five-man staff that you are really confident in and you know they are going to give you a lot of innings."

The returns during intrasquad scrimmages have been mixed, with Eovaldi pitching well but pretty much everyone else struggling, leading Roenicke to wonder if the pitchers were performing poorly or the offense was just that good.

"Maybe it's a combination of both," he said.

What's clear is that getting off to a fast start, pretty much a necessity in such a short season, rests with what kind of tone Eovaldi sets from the jump.

"His command has been pretty good so I think he's pleased with what he's doing," Roenicke said. "He's a perfectionist like all of them so he wants to continue to get better, but we really are happy with where he's at. We know we're going to need innings from him. With what our rotation is, he's got to be a guy we're going to count on to give us innings almost every game and hopefully along with that throw up a bunch of zeroes and we'll score some runs for him."

Eovaldi is ready for the challenge.

"We're going to have 12 or 13 starts, and it's going to be important to be locked in for every one of them," he said.

Perez comes next, and he's got something to prove. A Rookie of the Year candidate with the Rangers in 2013, when he went 10-6 with a career-best 3.62 ERA, he has struggled since, posting a 5.49 ERA over the last two seasons. The Twins elected not to re-sign him after he went 10-7 with a 5.12 ERA last year, but now he looks like Boston's No. 2 starter.

"It doesn't matter what game you've got," he said. "It's the same responsibility. You've got to go out there and win games. That's all that matters. We have to stay together. We have to work together as a group. If we stay together and work together as a group, we're going to do special things this year in this short season. That's the same responsibility that I had when this started. I'm getting to the point where I want to be. I'm available to get people out and give a chance to my team to win the game."

As for Weber, he relies on guile, deception, and sweeping movement to compensate for a fastball that barely breaks 90 mph. During his best start of 2019 in Toronto, when he threw six innings of one-run ball, he showed how he could attack the zone while staying out of the heart of it.

"I can throw 10 perfect pitches in a row, but that 11th one, if I get lazy — you guys know I don't throw hard — so if I get lazy and throw one over the middle of the plate, it could be a home run, and that could ruin the outing," Weber said. "So just trying to hone my best mechanics, my best pitch, and just staying convicted every single pitch, every single at-bat."

The fourth spot is up in the air and could go to someone like left-hander Brian Johnson, a survivor who was non-tendered last winter, but is still fighting for a job as a non-roster invitee. The fifth spot will probably be an opener.

By the time we get to that part of the rotation, however, the fate of the season will have been determined by the regulars with something to prove.

Ranking the Top 10 biggest brawls in Red Sox history

Ranking the Top 10 biggest brawls in Red Sox history

The 2020 MLB season is already going to look different.

Teams will only play 60 games instead of 162. There likely won't be any fans in the stands. The National League will use a DH. Extra innings will start with a runner on second base.

But thanks to the realities of the coronavirus and the need to stay socially distanced, we're unlikely to see one staple of the baseball season: bench-clearing brawls.

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Tempers often rise along with the temperatures, and when the bad blood boils and pitches start flying high and tight (or sometimes behind) batters, teams mix it up and start throwing punches.

That doesn't mean we can't look back at some of our favorites, however. The Red Sox have been no strangers to fisticuffs over the years, from Billy Martin jumping Jimmy Piersall in a tunnel before a game in 1952 to Machine Gun Joe Kelly beckoning Tyler Austin to join him on the mound in 2018.

This list was originally going to be top five, but there were too many memorable options and no shortage of worthy candidates the ended up on the cutting room floor -- David Ortiz vs. the Orioles' Kevin Gregg was a good one, for instance. So enjoy this list and don't be surprised when a number of entries are accompanied by a jolt of adrenaline.

Click here for the gallery of the Top 10 Red Sox brawls of all-time.