Red Sox Open To Tweaking Rotation; So, What Moves Can They Make?

It might be time for a lot more Tanner Houck

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When Alex Cora said Tuesday he is open to tweaking the Boston Red Sox rotation, it was not just a throwaway line. There are actual moves he can make, and it seems like he very well might make them.

Cora’s remark came after a fifth straight loss, as the Red Sox fell Tuesday to the lowly Detroit Tigers. It was another tough night for a Boston starter, with Garrett Richards allowing three runs on five hits over four innings.

The obvious first step is making Tanner Houck a full-time member of the Red Sox rotation. He’s young and there are flaws in his game, but he has shown the possibility to be a legit back- to mid-rotation starter, and it might be time to let him take a crack at getting a turn every fifth day.

Another possibility would be to use the opener route more often. Garrett Whitlock has been one of the Red Sox’s strongest arms this season. He’s capable of going multiple innings, and at this point, maybe the best move — especially ahead of an off day — is to go with Whitlock and Phillips Valdez for a few innings before turning it over to the rest of the relievers. Cora is only looking for five innings from his starters; you probably could get six out of Whitlock and Valdez most nights.

And, of course, a lot of this situation could be simply rectified by Chris Sale’s seemingly imminent return. That wouldn’t fix all of Boston’s problems, but the returns have been encouraging from his rehab starts, so there’s reason to believe he could come back and be a truly effective top of the rotation starter.

So, the question then becomes, who comes out in those situations?

While Richards is not fretting over the possibility of losing his rotation spot, he seems like the most likely candidate. That’s in part because he also has significant bullpen experience. Maybe the Red Sox take the Joe Kelly route with him and decide that having him empty the tank in one inning instead of trying to sustain it over multiple frames is a way to get the most out of him.

Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez obviously aren’t coming out, and despite their recent struggles, Rodriguez in particular, you have to let both work through it.

Nick Pivetta at least is giving the Red Sox a chance to win more often than not. Giving Martín Pérez an opportunity to get right also makes sense because he generally is a perfect fifth starter. That said, Pérez probably should have a shorter leash than Pivetta when it comes to keeping a rotation spot.

There are a variety of options, and with two months left in the regular season, time is running out for Cora to figure out which avenue is best.

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