Even the most pessimistic Red Sox fans would have suspected that David Price, Mookie Betts and David Ortiz would all be positive contributors to the 2016 squad.
It just so happens that those three players were key parts of the Red Sox opening day win over the Cleveland Indians.
When the two teams face-off again Wednesday evening, things could get interesting.
That’s because Betts and Ortiz won’t hit home runs every day and David Price won’t be on the mound.
Clay Buchholz takes the mound for the Red Sox. Buchholz is starting his 10th season in the majors. For the better part of his career, he’s been one big question mark for the Red Sox.
Can he stay healthy? Buchholz has made more than 20 starts just three times. His ERA’s those three seasons were 2.33, 4.56, and 5.34. In other words even when he has been healthy, he’s been inconsistent.
So which Clay Buchholz do the Red Sox get this season, or even which Clay Buchholz do they get tonight in Cleveland?
Buchholz was one of the best pitchers in the American League through the first half of 2013. Then an injury derailed what could have ended up as the best season of his career.
He showed improvement over the course of four relatively brief spring training starts. The Red Sox are going to need at least one, and probably two other reliable starting pitchers besides Price and Buchholz is for better or worse as good a bet as anyone is to be one the team’s better starting pitchers.
At his best Buchholz offers up pinpoint control which means very few walks. He’s not a high strikeout pitcher, but when he’s on, hitters struggle to make any sort of solid contact. In other words, he thrives on the edges of the strike zone.
He gets into big trouble when his ball is up in the zone. He doesn’t have an overpowering fastball so once the ball is above the knees and over the plate, hitters tend to make solid contact.
For now Buchholz is healthy, so the Red Sox need only be concerned with his performance.
As far as the offense goes, the Red Sox will face a starter who might as tough or even tougher for them to make solid contact against than Corey Kluber.
Carlos Carrasco’s 2015 numbers might not seem that impressive, but after the All-Star break he was one of the better starters in the league.
Carrasco was 4-5 with a 2.99 ERA, add 94 strikeouts over 74.1 innings and you’ve got yourself a No.2 starter with No.1 caliber results.
As effective as Price was Tuesday, he wasn’t that efficient. After hurling 103 pitches over six innings, the Red Sox were forced to use their bullpen for the final three innings. Tazawa, Uehara and Kimbrel were all exceptional in their season debuts, but the Red Sox are probably going to need another three innings (at least) from the bullpen Wednesday.
That means that Robbie Ross, Matt Barnes, and Tommy Layne could all see action. Yes there were questions about Uehara bouncing back from injury at the age of 41, and Tazawa’s late-season fatigue was a concern, but at least Tazawa and Uehara had proven that they could be consistently good or better than good out of the pen.
Ross, Barnes and Layne are different. None of them have established themselves as consistently solid relievers. With Carson Smith on the disabled list, the Red Sox need at least one or two of the three to become a reliable bullpen option.
Boston Red Sox vs. Cleveland Indians is scheduled to start at 6:10 PM ET, live from Progressive Field in Cleveland.