Red Sox right-hander Ryan Weber entered camp hoping to win a battle for the fifth and final spot in the rotation, but manager Ron Roenicke has suggested that the 29-year-old now looks like the team’s fourth starter, per the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato.
Weber inked a minor league deal with the Red Sox in December 2018 and found himself in the big leagues as early as May, when now-former Sox lefty David Price hit the injured list. He spent the rest of the season bouncing between Pawtucket and Boston, ultimately appearing in 18 games and pitching to a 5.08 ERA in 40 2/3 innings. That’s not a particularly appealing number, of course, but Weber’s 4.20 FIP was much more palatable, and there’s reason to think he could be more effective yet.
Among the 436 pitchers who had 100 balls put into play against them in 2019, Weber posted the 17th-lowest hard-hit rate, per Statcast. Weber exhibited good control both in Triple-A and the Majors, and over the course of his pro career, his sinker has generated above-average ground-ball rates each year. The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham wrote earlier in the month that the Sox were intrigued by the small handful of cutters that Weber threw last season and believe the pitch could develop into a quality offering with more use. To his credit, Weber also has an excellent Triple-A track record, having pitched to a 2.85 ERA in 360 1/3 innings there.
Even if Weber does surface as a serviceable rotation piece, Boston’s collection of starters is shaky following yesterday’s announcement that Chris Sale will miss the 2020 season due to Tommy John surgery. Eduardo Rodriguez turned in the finest season of his career in 2019 and should be a solid leader of the group. But right-hander Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t made more than 21 starts in a season since 2015, and lefty Martin Perez is fresh off a second consecutive sub-par season. The fifth spot in the rotation could go to an opener, although Mastrodonato and other reporters that spoke with Roenicke yesterday noted that he also mentioned lefty Brian Johnson as a possibility.
Sox fans may hope that righty Collin McHugh, signed as a free agent earlier this month, could eventually emerge as an option. However, The Athletic’s Chad Jennings wrote yesterday (subscription required) that McHugh still hasn’t begun a throwing program as he works back from elbow troubles of his own. He’s reportedly been cleared to do so, although workouts for all players are in limbo to some extent, given the suspended state of play. Perhaps by the time the season eventually gets underway, he’ll be built up, but it’s difficult to pencil him in even as a tentative rotation piece for the time being.
The Red Sox’ lineup should still be solid even without Mookie Betts, anchored by a formidable trio of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez. But between Sale’s surgery, the trade of Price and the lack of a steady addition in the offseason, Boston’s starting staff looks like it’ll be a patchwork unit.