It’s a delicate balance right now for Alex Cora when it comes to the Red Sox pitching staff.
The Boston manager has his hands full at the moment, weighing his team’s fight for a playoff spot with a desire to rest some of his starting pitchers amid a long season. With a massive four-game series against the American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays on tap starting Monday night, that dilemma is front and center.
Cora on Sunday revealed his team’s rotation for the four-game Tampa Bay series ahead of an eventual late-inning loss to Cleveland. Chris Sale, who has made just three big league starts since returning from Tommy John surgery, will get an extra day of rest. Nathan Eovaldi won’t even see the mound in St. Pete, as he’s getting an extra day, too, and there’s one large unknown in the middle of the series.
Here’s how Cora will use his starters this week:
Monday: Nick Pivetta
Tuesday: To be determined
Wednesday: Chris Sale
Thursday: Eduardo Rodriguez
“Obviously, that to be determined, it all depends on where we’re at as far as bullpen usage and everything — it might be a bullpen day on Tuesday, but obviously, that’s if we’re capable of doing a bullpen day,” Cora told reporters Sunday in his pregame press conference.
Boston currently has Garrett Richards and Martin Perez, who both started the season in the rotation, in the bullpen. They seem like the logical choices for a Tuesday spot start, although Richards has done a very nice job since moving to the ‘pen, allowing just one run in 10 1/3 innings. He was especially good this past weekend in Cleveland, getting high-leverage outs for the first time since moving to the bullpen.
Cora also indicated this is likely the last time the Sox will give Sale a designed extra day of rest. The Rays will be by far his biggest test since returning. He’s allowed just four runs over three starts against Baltimore, Texas and Minnesota.
The Eovaldi skip is one to monitor moving forward. It’s hard to find any starting pitcher who feels 100 percent in late August. By the sounds of it, a little extra rest could go a long way for the hard-throwing right-hander. Cora said skipping Eovaldi was on the table for his most recent start, but the decision ultimately was made to skip him in the Tampa Bay series.
“We were debating if we wanted to give Nate an extra day on (most recent turn through the rotation), so we decided to go on regular rest and give him the extra rest on the next one (in Tampa),” Cora explained.
“It’s one of those things where we know we’re capable every five days — we’ve got some good stuff going (in the rotation) — but at the same time, there are certain guys feeling it. Last year, they didn’t pitch much. This year, they’ve been able to post every five or six days. There are a few things, medical stuff, it’s not red flags, but we have to make sure they’re full strength or close to full strength when we go out.”
In a perfect world, Boston surely would like Eovaldi taking the ball versus the Rays, but if it resting him now means he’s healthy for the stretch run and the playoffs, then that’s a no-brainer.
Monday marks the first of seven games against Tampa Bay over the next two weeks.