Notes: How Boston's arms line up after ASG

Sale expected to begin rehab assignment shortly after break

July 7th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- The most underrated reason for why the Red Sox are where they are -- owners of the best record in the American League entering Wednesday -- is due to the durability of their pitching staff.

The five regular members of the starting rotation (Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, Martín Pérez and Garrett Richards) have started 86 of the team’s first 88 games.

The only exception was Tanner Houck making two starts -- the first when Rodriguez was recovering from Spring Training “dead arm” and the other in the second game of a doubleheader.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora and pitching coach Dave Bush are now plotting out ways to make sure the staff stays healthy the entire season.

The club has put a lot of thought into how it will line up the rotation coming out of the All-Star break.

For example, Rodriguez will start the first game at Yankee Stadium coming out of the break on July 15 with seven days of rest. Eovaldi might get an inning or two in the All-Star Game, but he will go from Tuesday until July 16 without making a start for Boston. Pivetta will pitch the final game before the All-Star break against the Phillies and then not start again until a week later when he closes out the four-game series in New York.

“We’re trying to give everybody a little bit of extra rest,” said Bush. “We’re coming off [playing] 16 or 17 [days] straight right now and we have another 17 or 18 right out of the break. So this is the only spot here in almost a two-month period we can get guys extra rest, so we’re trying to build in some extra time around the All-Star break. And also Nate going to the All-Star Game, we had to make sure we put him in the right spot coming out of that game. So that was the first piece, finding the right day for Nate to come back. Then filling in the pieces around him and making sure we gave guys a couple extra days when we could.”

Look for the Red Sox to insert Houck -- now that he’s healthy again -- into the rotation as a sixth starter for a period of time coming out of the break. Boston plays from July 15 to Aug. 2 without getting a day off.

Though Houck is on the Minor League roster, Bush compared his recent progression to a rehab assignment. The talented righty -- Boston’s No. 6 prospect -- didn’t pitch from May 4 to June 16 due to a strained flexor in his right arm.

Houck’s first four starts in his return to Triple-A Worcester have been between three and four innings.

“He’s nearing the end of his rehab assignment and when he gets built up to the point we’re comfortable, then we’ll see where the rest of our rotation and bullpen is at and decide what move to make,” said Bush.

Though the Red Sox have obviously had some fortune for all of their starters to stay healthy, Cora thinks that medical science has played a role.

“The training staff, they do an outstanding job,” said Cora. “Like I said, we added some other stuff that we’re doing in between starts to see how stressful the outing is -- the workload, everything that goes into a start. We’re very pleased with where we at.”

Of course, the most impactful thing that could happen to the Red Sox down the stretch would be the return of a healthy Chris Sale.

The lefty is expected to start a Minor League rehab assignment right around the time the Red Sox open the second half of the season at Yankee Stadium.

One thing is clear: The Sox have put too much thought into every step of Sale’s rehab from Tommy John surgery to rush him now.

Though Sale recently said he didn’t expect to need to make a six- or seven-start rehab assignment, the Red Sox will do what they think is right.

“So far, his stuff has been really good. It’s a bullpen/mound session, we haven’t seen him in game situations yet, but based on where he is right now, I feel good about what he’s doing,” said Bush. “He feels really strong, he has put a lot of effort into making sure his whole body is ready for this. His shoulder is stronger, his elbow is going through the healing process, he’s focused a lot on his strength and mobility and flexibility and making sure that his body is ready to handle pitching when he comes back.

“So from that standpoint, I think we’re going to get really good stuff out of him. But he’s going to be rusty. He hasn’t pitched in almost two years, so sure, it’s not always going to be smooth and perfect, but I do think when he comes back, that he’s going to have really good stuff and he’ll be as close as he can be to his old self. Again, knowing it’s not going to be perfect and clean, but we’re going to bring him back when he’s ready to pitch. We’re not going to bring him back too early. We want to make sure for his sake and for ours, that he’s ready to pitch the way that he can.”