There’s no way to sugarcoat it: The Boston Red Sox have a pitching shortage.
That shortage could be fixed, in some ways, before Opening Day at the end of the month. Eduardo Rodriguez is working his way back from COVID-19 and the hope is he’s ready to go. But even after Rodriguez, who is the likely No. 1 starter upon his return, there are question marks among the starters.
Assuming Rodriguez is ready to go, he’ll be followed by Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez. After that, there’s plenty of uncertainty. Brian Johnson might be in the running for the No. 4 spot. The opener is looking more and more likely to be used, too.
One candidate for the opener piggyback — the “bulk” pitcher who logs multiple innings after the opener — is left-hander Matt Hall. Boston acquired Hall from the Detroit Tigers in January.
The 26-year-old opened some eyes Monday morning during the club’s intrasquad scrimmage. Hall worked three “innings,” striking out five. The lefty flashed a tight curveball, including a sharp backdoor bender to outfielder Kevin Pillar that left the veteran outfielder nodding in approval. Hall struck out Rafael Devers twice, once on what looked like a cutter and another time on a beautiful fastball painted on the outside corner. The cutter appeared to get Jackie Bradley Jr, as well, and the other punchout came on an elevated fastball to Pillar.
“Matt Hall I thought was really good today,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said during his media availability after the scrimmage. “We know he has a good curveball and he showed that today and talking to our hitters commenting on the curveball. That is a real nice weapon he has. He threw the fastball well. He kind of cuts in on right-handers. Yeah, I was really impressed with him today.”
Of course, it’s important not to read too much into one performance. Hall doesn’t have the greatest big league track record to this point in his career — he has a 9.48 ERA over 31 1/3 career innings — and he allowed four runs on six hits in just three spring training appearances with the Red Sox before the pandemic shut down the league. It’s also worth mentioning Red Sox hitters not named J.D. Martinez are still struggling to find their timing, and the pitchers clearly have the upper hand in the restart thus far.
But still, he’s very much in the running for the aforementioned role in Boston’s opener games.
“So, we know we’re comfortable with him going whether it’s two, three, four innings — we know he can do that,” Roenicke said. “I think how durable a guy is, how quickly he can bounce back, is really important in this role. Sometimes, a starter, you pitch him three or four innings, and if you can’t use him for five days, that doesn’t really work real well in the bullpen.”
If Hall is able to do anything like he did Monday, though, that could go a long way in helping to address the Red Sox’s most pressing issue as they get set to enter the 60-game sprint that is the 2020 baseball season.