The Blue Jays start a three-game series with the Red Sox today in Beautiful (almost) Downtown Dunedin.
The Red Sox are first in the AL East with a 25-17 record, 1.5 games ahead of the Blue Jays. The Red Sox are third in the AL in run scored per game at 5.17 (Jays are fourth at 4.92) and seventh in runs allowed per game at 4.10 (Jays are sixth at 4.00).
I sent off some questions to Matt Collins, manager of Over the Monster, SB’s Red Sox blog.
The Red Sox seem to have avoided the parade of players hitting the IL, unlike the Blue Jays and virtually every other team in the MLB. How? Could you perhaps share the good mojo with the Jays?
It really is an incredible thing for the Red Sox, and really it’s hard to attribute it to anything besides luck. Heading into the season, it seemed likely that health would be the downfall of this roster, particularly in the rotation. That is a group riddled with injury and workload concerns and the assumption was that they would be spending significant portions of the season with multiple starters on the IL at the same time. I’m knocking on wood right now because the continuing of this trend is key for them keeping it up.
Can I have a quick scouting report of the starting pitchers we are likely to see?
Eduardo Rodriguez is the best pitcher on the team, and he’s been pitching better than his ERA this year. After missing all of 2020 with COVID and then myocarditis, there was concern about how well he’d be able to pitch but the stuff has mostly been there. When he’s at his best he works really well off his changeup, easily his best pitch. The one concern this year has been some inconsistency with his fastball velocity.
Garrett Richards was by far the worst starter on the team for the first three weeks or so, but things have turned around in a big way since then. He’s been probably their best starter for the last few turns as he’s started throwing more strikes and everything has improved from there. Besides the walk rate coming way down during this run, he’s also been incorporating a curveball more often and getting more whiffs in the process.
Nick Pivetta has been the most surprising player on the Red Sox roster this year. After looking like his career was just about over with the Phillies, he’s been getting great results since joining the Red Sox late last year. He’s throwing a slider more now and he’s working up in the zone with his fastball, and it’s helped him avoid the homer problems that plagued him earlier in his career. Control has been an issue and it’s been hard to believe he’s been able to have this run of success with as many walks as he’s allowing.
Matt Barnes seems to be doing a great job in the closer role (minus a pitch to Shohei Ohtani). What does he throw? Do you have confidence in him? Who are the main setup guys?
I’ve been at the head of the Matt Barnes bandwagon for years now, so I absolutely have confidence in him. I suspect his control will get a bit worse as the year goes on, but the pure strikeout stuff is in the top three or five in all of baseball. He’s a classic fastball/breaking ball pitcher with a hammer curveball that he’ll throw in any count. As far as the setup guys, that’s been the big problem, of late. The two main guys are Adam Ottavino and Darwinzon Hernandez. They both have tremendous stuff, but they are also liable to totally lose the zone in any given outing. Garrett Whitlock, a Rule 5 pick who’s had a great year so far, could get some time as well.
Who is your early season most pleasant surprise?
Like I said above, I think it has to be Pivetta. I had pretty much no confidence in him coming into the season, and in fact, my prediction was that he’d be in the bullpen by Memorial Day. That is clearly not going to happen, and now he is looking like a guy who may not only stick in the rotation for the rest of the year but also is working his way into longer-term rotation plans. Again, the control is worrisome and I do see some drop-off coming due to that, but he has a long way to drop from where he is now to not being a worthy back-end starter. And even reaching that point is exceeding expectations.
And who is your early season biggest disappointment?
The Red Sox haven’t had any major disappointments in terms of players with expectations coming into the year. Most everyone who had expectations has performed. But I think Franchy Cordero has to be the answer here. He was definitely a wildcard after coming in with the Andrew Benintendi trade, but no one was expecting things to get this bad. He’s got a 24 wRC+ at this point, and he’s on the verge of being sent down.
How long until Chris Sale returns? What do you expect from him this year?
That’s still a bit of an open question. With his personality, he’d certainly be pushing to come back as soon as possible, but the team is wisely being cautious and making sure when he’s back, he’s back for good. So they’re taking it a bit easy, and it doesn’t seem like he’s particularly close to even rehabbing. My expectation is sometime in late July or early August. As far as performance, I think it’ll take some time to build up the innings, but I don’t think they’ll have him back until he’s at least close to 100%.
Are there any prospects you expect the Red Sox to call up this season?
Yeah, there are definitely a few prospects to watch for, but the biggest one is Jarren Duran. He checks all the boxes in terms of building hype. His performance has been trending in the right direction for the last couple of years, with a swing change leading to more power. He’s also knocking on the door, and he fills a position in the outfield that they need filling. He still has some kinks to work out and the team isn’t rushing him, but I suspect he’ll be up about a month from now, and up for good.
Thank you, Matt.