Who Will Be Red Sox’s Fifth Starter? John Farrell Issues Challenge

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Red Sox manager John Farrell

Photo via Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) looks on to the field during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

BOSTON — Thanks to a favorable upcoming schedule, the Red Sox have some time before they need to employ a fifth starting pitcher. But a decision must be made eventually, and it appears the spot is up for grabs.

The Red Sox currently have four starters after optioning Joe Kelly to Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday following his rough outing against the Baltimore Orioles. That likely won’t change until June 18, as Boston has three off-days in the upcoming two weeks that will allow manager John Farrell to keep those four starters on normal five days’ rest.

So, what will happen after June 18? The Red Sox could test the market for another arm ahead of Major League Baseball’s July 31 trade deadline, but Farrell insisted the team’s current focus is on finding an internal candidate to fill that fifth spot.

“(Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski) is always going to look to do what’s best for our club, and how we can improve upon it,” Farrell said ahead of Friday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. “But my job, our staff, we’ve got to get the most out of the guys here.

“That’s the only way I look at it right now. It’s who we have, both here and who might be coming through the system to join us.”

Kelly and Clay Buchholz, who recently was demoted to the bullpen, are the most likely options to earn the fifth starter role. But a pair of minor league arms — left-handers Henry Owens and Roenis Elias — also will be in the mix.

Owens has posted a 5.11 ERA in three big league starts, while Elias was touched for three runs in 1 2/3 innings in his only appearance for Boston this season. Elias has major league experience as a starter, however, and has recorded 25 strikeouts over his last three starts for Pawtucket.

“He’s come off a couple of outings where he’s thrown the ball very well,” Farrell said of Elias. “You see the strikeouts spike at Triple-A, and for a guy that’s got the number of starts at the major league level, you’d like to see him dominate that minor league level, because that kind of coincides with the ability that he has. So, he would certainly be a candidate for that start on (June) 18th and beyond.”

The Red Sox haven’t been able to get good production out of their fifth starter spot this season, and all four of the potential candidates have had their struggles. But it appears Boston is committed to working with what it has, and Farrell is hoping one of those four will seize the opportunity.

“The candidate pool is going to be internal,” he said. “Clay, Elias, Joe Kelly, Henry Owens — someone grab it.”

Thumbnail photo via Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports Images

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