Steven Wright earned this.
The Boston Red Sox announced Thursday that Wright will start Sunday’s series finale against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. It’s not the sexiest move for an organization with a trio of highly regarded pitching prospects stationed at Triple-A, but it’s the most sensible decision for the Red Sox right now.
When the Red Sox embarked on this season without an ace, instead relying on five starters with sporadic track records, the internal presumption was that Boston had reinforcements waiting at Pawtucket.
The club’s best-case scenario involved none of them being needed, while the worst-case scenario was a situation in which the Red Sox began to assess their entire rotation with the understanding that something needed to change sooner rather than later. Guess which came to fruition.
Placing Justin Masterson on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis and calling upon Wright, at least initially, to start in his place hardly categorizes as a major move. And it’s one that isn’t likely to shake the rotation to its core, specifically as it relates to the bigger picture. But Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson — the three highly regarded prospects — all have had hiccups this season, so rushing them to the majors to clog a hole might only compound Boston’s pitching issues over the long run.
In fact, that was the biggest danger of entering the season with so many questions in the big league rotation and, in turn, potentially so much reliance on unproven quantities in the minors. Owens, Rodriguez and Johnson all might have successful major league careers, and they all might debut with Boston in 2015. But asking any of them to join the fray early this season with the presumption they’ll perform at a higher level than whoever they’re replacing simply is unreasonable.
Sure, Owens, Rodriguez and/or Johnson could join the Red Sox’s rotation in mid-May and set the world on fire. A prospect coming up and taking the league by storm isn’t unprecedented. However, any of those three filling a hole should have been — and still should be — viewed as a shot in the dark rather an expectation. It’s especially true now that none have emerged as slam-dunk call-ups over the first month and a half.
Thus, we arrive at Wright, who pitched his way into the Red Sox’s “sixth starter” role during spring training. The 30-year-old knuckleballer’s ceiling isn’t quite as high as that of the other options the Sox could have considered, but he’s the safest bet to provide quality innings this Sunday. Aside from actually having major league experience, unlike the other three, he’s pitched well in spurts for Boston.
Will Wright stick in the rotation for the duration of 2015? Maybe not. Much of his value lies in his ability to bounce between a starting role and a relief gig with relative ease. And perhaps someone down on the farm will emerge over the next few weeks or the Red Sox will strongly consider external options.
But in figuring out who should take the ball for a Sunday afternoon game on the West Coast in the middle of May, Wright absolutely is the right guy for the job. There’s no sense potentially stunting someone else’s growth during what continues to be a feeling-out period for the Red Sox organizationally.
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