Tthe Red Sox are amidst a stretch of ten games in nine days, thanks to a doubleheader against the Orioles on Saturday. That could necessitate the club using a spot starter, with manager Alex Cora suggesting Josh Winckowski as a possible candidate, per Chris Cotillo of MassLive.
The right-hander was a 15th round selection of the Blue Jays in 2016, but went to the Mets as part of the Steven Matz trade, about two weeks before the Mets sent him to Boston in the three-team Andrew Benintendi deal. Last year, his first in the Red Sox organization, he split his time between Double-A and Triple-A, throwing 112 total innings with a 3.94 ERA, 21.3% strikeout rate and 6.9% walk rate, earning himself a spot on the 40-man roster.
This year, the 23-year-old seems to have taken things forward a notch over his first seven starts and 31 2/3 innings for Triple-A Worcester. His ERA is at 3.13 with a 27.9% strikeout rate, 4.9% walk rate and 57% grounder rate. He last started for the WooSox Sunday, which would line up as the team’s 27th man for Saturday’s doubleheader on five days’ rest.
Further down the road, the rotation should get a boost from the return of Chris Sale, who threw a 15-pitch bullpen session today. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes that Sale is scheduled for another bullpen on Friday and is likely to throw another next week. Cora suggested that Sale could be in line to throw live batting practice following next week’s session if all goes well. That’d mark his first time throwing to hitters since he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his rib cage in March.
There’s still a long road ahead before Sale can contribute to the big league team, though it’s encouraging that he’s at least making progress. The lefty threw 42 2/3 innings last year in his return from Tommy John surgery and was effective, though not quite at the ace level of previous years. His 3.16 ERA was over a run higher than his 2018 mark, with his 28.4% strikeout rate coming in about 10 points below the same number from three years earlier.
Boston is also awaiting the season debut of James Paxton, who is rehabbing from last April’s Tommy John surgery. The southpaw is a bit behind Sale in his recovery after being sidelined by continued elbow soreness this month, but he tells Rob Bradford of WEEI (audio link) he’s feeling better and has again started throwing. Paxton suggested he’s looking to gradually progress from 60 to 120 feet during his work from flat ground before he could begin throwing bullpen sessions of his own.
The 33-year-old Paxton signed a convoluted free agent deal over the offseason. He’s making $6MM this year, and the Sox will have to decide whether to trigger matching $13MM options for 2023-24 at the end of the season. If the team declines their end, Paxton can exercise a $4MM player option for 2023 only or test free agency. How long Paxton’s stay in Boston lasts will certainly be determined by his progress in his ongoing recovery and his form whenever he makes his return.