Red Sox opening day is practically here, with the Red Sox taking on the Orioles on July 24. This is perhaps sooner than Boston would like, considering how much they still must figure out about the starting rotation. Here's recent news regarding potential starters for the Red Sox this season.
Sox Sign Zack Godley, Acquire Dylan Covey
The Red Sox have agreed to a minor-league contract with right-handed pitcher Zack Godley on Friday. Godley will be a non-roster invitee to Boston’s summer training camp. This means he will need to be added to the 40-man roster if the Red Sox want him available on Opening Day. Though Godley has a good chance to make the team at the end of camp next week, his contract includes multiple opt-outs in case he is not in the majors at specific points in the season.
Godley, a 30-year-old right-hander, was a member of the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation in 2017 and 2018. He posted a solid 4.10 ERA over 57 starts in those two seasons. He struggled at the beginning of 2019, causing Arizona to designate him for assignment. The Blue Jays claimed him off waivers in early August, and seemed to improve his performance. He threw 16 relief innings for Toronto, posting a 3.94 ERA with 12 strikeouts.
If Godly can continue his play from Toronto, then he would be a great option at the end of the starting rotation. If he plays poorly, then the Sox might just add him to an already solid bullpen. The deal is a low risk, medium reward scenario for the Sox, as they definitely could use the extra options.
The Red Sox also acquired Dylan Coey from the Tampa Bay Rays, who was not expected to make their 40-man roster. This opened an opportunity, through a clause in his contract, to pursue other major league opportunities. Covey was with the White Sox in 2019, allowing nearly an eight ERA in addition to a 1.76 WHIP. He does not have the same upside as Godley, but the Red Sox didn't lose anything in the process of gaining him.
Collin McHugh Opts Out
The Zack Godley signing might have came after the Sox were aware that McHugh would sit out the season. McHugh was one of the more intriguing pitchers on the Red Sox roster, as he still had apparent talent. The decision came less due to the current pandemic, and more due to his right elbow injury. McHugh was reportedly unhappy with how it was responding while he pitches. He will instead use this season to rest and rehab.
McHugh's deal was only for one year, meaning he may not make his return with Boston anymore. As a starter in Houston, McHughs posted a 3.70 ERA from 2014-2017. He had a strong .632 win percentage, and well over three times the strikeouts as walks. The last two years has seen McHughs take a role in the Astros bullpen. There he has continued to pitch with impressive consistency. While he did struggle last year, McHugh was in prime position for a comeback season.
E-Rod Returns to Boston
Pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Darwinzon Hernandez recently returned to Boston. Both had tested positive for coronavirus prior to the start of training camp, and were recovering at their respective homes. The return of Rodriguez is certainly positive for the team. He was undeniably the best pitcher on the roster, and perhaps even a top three player on the team.
Rodriguez went 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA in 34 starts, while even coming sixth in Cy Young voting. When he eventually returns, he should be at the head of a unproven starting rotation. Even with Eovaldi looking for a huge comeback season, and cheap yet decent end of rotation pitchers, the season may ride or die on E-Rod.
Eovaldi Starting Opening Day
Chris Sale is out for the season, and probably some of the next, as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Eduardo Rodriguez, as stated above, has only just returned after recovering from coronavirus. This raised the question of who would start on opening day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they chose to go with Nathan Eovaldi.
Eovaldi is pretty much the only option that is used to pitching at Fenway as most starters have only recently joined the team. He also showed signs that his old self returned prior to baseball getting paused, with increased velocity and movement in his pitches. Nate was a crucial member of the 2018 World Series championship team, starting 11 games with a 3.33 ERA in the regular season. He then followed that up in the postseason with a 1.61 ERA in two starts and four relief appearances.
Eovaldi was one of Boston's pitchers that struggled the most last year, which was not a good start to his massive new contract. Hopefully he can return to 2018 Eovaldi, and cement himself as a great second starter in the rotation once E-Rod returns.
Boston Adds Pitching Prospects to the 60-Man Roster
The Red Sox have added a handful of new pitchers to their roster through free agency and trades. But many of the dark horse candidates to crack the rotation appear to be coming from their own minor league system. Boston placed nine prospects on their 60-player pool, five of which were pitchers. This group is highlighted by prospect Jay Groome, who's been near the top of every Red Sox prospects list for the past few years.
Groome is also joined by starting pitcher Bryan Mata, who was the only Sox player to make the 2018 futures All-Star game. Tanner Houck, R.J. Alvarez, and Bobby Poyner also were added, but the trio is more likely to be relievers. Poyner was recently reassigned following the trade for Covey, though could still find himself up again later. We could see a huge youth influx to pitching in the near future, though whether that happens this year or next remains to be seen.
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