Which Red Sox Pitcher Outside ‘Big Three’ Will Have Biggest Impact In 2017?

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Call them the “Little Three.”

With all due respect to Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz, the stars of the Boston Red Sox’s pitching staff are the three other hurlers in the rotation: Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello.

But while the “Big Three” grabs all the headlines, the “Little Three” should be a subject of intrigue for the Red Sox in 2017. Rodriguez, Wright and Pomeranz all have the opportunity to make an impact this season, and those chances just increased with Price’s elbow injury possibly delaying the start of his 2017 campaign.

Wright and Pomeranz, of course, are recovering from their own arm ailments, but both threw live batting practice sessions Wednesday and are expected to make their first spring training outings next week.

With that news in mind, let’s put Tebow-mania on the temporary back burner and make our cases for the back end of Boston’s rotation.

The case for Eduardo Rodriguez.
Injuries and ineffectiveness have forced Rodriguez to tinker with his mechanics several times in his brief major league career. But the potential always has been there. The 23-year-old left-hander flashed that potential down the stretch in 2016, posting a 3.27 ERA with a 3.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his final six starts. He’s looked good early in spring training, too, pitching two innings of no-hit ball in his debut and showcasing decent velocity and a solid changeup during a three-inning appearance Tuesday.

The knee injury Rodriguez sustained in winter ball is cause for pause, and health once again could hold the Venezuela native back in his third big league season. But he has the upside to begin the season as the No. 3 starter if Price still is sidelined.

The case for Steven Wright.
Nothing says unpredictability like a knuckleballer. Wright was Jekyll and Hyde in 2016, posting a 2.01 ERA in his first 14 starts but losing effectiveness down the stretch as a right shoulder injury derailed his season. Which Wright will the Red Sox get in 2017? If it’s anything close to his early 2016 self, he can be a valuable commodity in this rotation: A right-handed knuckleballer who can eat innings and offset hard-throwing lefties Sale and Price. (Wright pitched eight innings or more in a quarter of his starts last season.)

Another All-Star campaign might be too much to ask, but Wright certainly can settle in as a solid back-end starter in this rotation.

The case for Drew Pomeranz.
Pomeranz has the most to prove of this trio. The left-hander never really found his groove in 14 starts for Boston after last year’s trade deadline, posting a 3-5 record and 4.59 ERA. But such are the perils of moving from the San Diego Padres’ cavernous Petco Park to Fenway Park in the offense-heavy American League East. Pomeranz was baptized by fire, and now he has a clean slate in 2017 to prove why he was an All-Star with the Padres in 2017.

When he’s on his game, the 28-year-old veteran is a dependable starter who can keep hitters guessing with a solid four-pitch arsenal.

The front-runner.
Wright is trending in the wrong direction and Pomeranz has yet to prove he can hang in the AL East. That’s why we’re going with Rodriguez, who is well-positioned to prove his worth in 2017. With Sale, Porcello and (eventually) Price ahead of him in the rotation, E-Rod doesn’t have to dominate or overpower teams. He just has to give the Red Sox consistent innings, and that approach combined with a clean bill of health could help him realize his potential as an effective, middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images

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