Weber in command of Red Sox rotation spot

July 11th, 2020

BOSTON -- Can a soft-throwing righty who relies heavily on command and changing speeds hold down a rotation spot for a high-profile team that plays in an offensive-minded division?

The answer to that question is coming soon, because Red Sox righty Ryan Weber is about to get the chance he’s always wanted but never received. At the age of 29, Weber is going to open the season in a Major League starting rotation.

After coming to Spring Training as a bubble candidate, Weber pushed his way into the rotation by pitching nine scoreless innings over his three starts. Not only that, but he walked none and struck out 11 while holding opponents to a .182 batting average.

With Chris Sale done for the season after Tommy John surgery and Eduardo Rodriguez’s status for Opening Day still uncertain due to COVID-19, Weber could actually open as Boston’s No. 3 starter.

His family and friends in St. Petersburg, Fla., are sure to be watching.

“I think it’s fun for the people at home to see someone out there that’s doing it a little different than most of the guys now,” Weber said. “It’s fun for them to watch pitches that move, and it’s not 98 right down the middle or a 12-6 curveball right down the middle. The ball is moving in, out, around, and the pitch mix is crucial, too.

“The command portion is really what makes me effective -- when my command is on, throwing all five of my pitches to both sides of the plate in any count. When I’m out there and everything is working, it’s pretty fun.”

This is the story of a late bloomer who is also at the right place at the right time. The Red Sox are hurting for depth in their rotation, and Weber hopes to provide stability each time he pitches.

“It puts a lot of focus on me of how important every single pitch has to be, especially this being a 60-game season,” Weber said. “It’s going to come down to a few games, whoever makes the playoffs or misses the playoffs. Right from the get-go that first pitch of the game is just as important as that last pitch of the game.”

Weber threw 79 pitches over four innings in an intrasquad game on Saturday. He was effective the first three frames and then fatigued in his last inning.

“It’s the first fourth inning I’ve seen since my last outing in Spring Training,” Weber said. “Yeah, I got tired, but it was a mechanical adjustment I will fix in my next bullpen and carry it on into the game.”

The Red Sox are the fourth organization Weber has pitched for. He was drafted by the Braves in 2009 and stayed with them until '17, when he had a one-year stint with the Mariners. Weber wound up with his hometown Rays in ’18, but he made just two relief appearances for the Major League team.

The Red Sox signed him as a Minor League free agent on Dec. 20, 2018. As a regular member of Pawtucket’s rotation, Weber made 15 starts, going 1-5 with a 4.50 ERA last season. Not exactly eye-popping stuff. But the Red Sox saw enough to call him up four times in ’19, and Weber made 18 appearances (three starts), going 2-4 with a 5.09 ERA.

Again, those numbers were less than inspiring. However, the coaching staff and front office saw enough in there to think that Weber was a few tweaks away from being a Major League-ready performer.

They'll see in a couple of weeks whether they are correct when the regular season gets underway.

“I like it because he goes right at the hitters,” said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke. “You know what you’re going to get. He moves the ball in and out. He’s got command. He throws strikes. I like everything I see. And I think with where we are in our starting rotation, he’s going to obviously fit in their nice and part of that five-man staff.”