The Boston Red Sox have been in this situation before. But that doesn’t make it any easier.
The Red Sox once again are without a top starting pitcher after they placed David Price on the 10-day disabled list (retroactive to July 25) with left elbow inflammation. It’s the second DL stint of the season for Price, who was sidelined for Boston’s first 49 games with an injury to the same elbow.
The Sox got by without Price in April and May, using a revolving door of starters like Brian Johnson and Kyle Kendrick to fill the back end of their rotation. So, how will they get by in July and August — with Major League Baseball’s trade deadline looming just four days away?
That, of course, depends on the severity of Price’s injury, which still is unknown — the 31-year-old could return quickly from his latest setback and be healthy for Boston’s stretch run, or he could miss considerable time and force the team to explore other long-term options.
What we do know, though, is Price will be sidelined until at least Aug. 4. Here are the three internal candidates who most likely will take Price’s place.
Brian Johnson, LHP — Johnson was scratched from his scheduled Triple-A start Friday, suggesting Boston would call him up to start in place of Price for its series opener against the Kansas City Royals. The Red Sox instead opted to bump their four other starters up a day, giving Rick Porcello the ball on four days’ rest. Johnson reportedly is dealing with shoulder fatigue, though. But if he’s healthy, Johnson is the most logical fifth starter candidate.
Doug Fister, RHP — Fister hasn’t started since getting touched for six runs in 4 1/3 innings last Thursday, but if Johnson scuffles or can’t go, the 33-year-old veteran likely will be next in line to fill the final rotation spot.
Hector Velazquez, RHP — Velazquez has been serviceable in a few emergency appearances this season, so if Price’s injury is short-term but drags on slightly longer than expected, the Mexico native could see some action.
But what if Price is forced to miss more time, possibly including postseason play? FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Friday that Boston doesn’t anticipate targeting a pitcher at the trade deadline (for now) despite Price’s injury. Rosenthal’s report makes sense: Most of the top pitchers on the market, such as Oakland Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray and Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish, would command robust trade packages, and the Red Sox have a relatively thin farm system after trading away many of their top prospects the last two offseasons.
Boston could find a middle ground and pursue a mid-level starter like the St. Louis Cardinals’ Lance Lynn, as The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier suggested in a column Friday. But Lynn still would come at a cost, and the Red Sox must decide if Price’s injury is serious enough to warrant such a move.
Right now, there’s no immediate need to panic: The Sox still have four solid starters in ace Chris Sale, Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz. But if they want to make a serious postseason run, they have some important decisions to make over the next 72 hours.
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