It is too soon for the Boston Red Sox to panic about Clay Buchholz

Pitcher Joe Kelly makes his first start of the season Thursday night in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

As bad as Clay Buchholz’s first start of the season was, there’s still no reason for Red Sox brass to push the panic button.

That’s because there are three other members of the Boston Red Sox starting rotation and unless they’re all markedly better than Buchholz, the team won’t really know where to start as far as fixing the rotation goes.

Joe Kelly, Rick Porcello and Steven Wright have yet to take the mound. Eduardo Rodriguez is at best a few weeks away from being healthy, so as bad as the Buchholz struggles are, it is too soon to put them in proper context.

What if the other three starters are all as bad or nearly as bad as Buchholz? If that’s the case then there’s no reason to yank Buchholz from his spot as the team’s number two starter, after all, he’s still got a better resume and more experience than any of the other three current options.

Porcello looked awful through most of spring training. Kelly and Wright both had encouraging ERA’s,but they also put a lot of men on base. In other words, they might not be nearly as effective once the games start to count.

Add in that no matter how much anyone is fed up with Buchholz, one start does not a season make. What if Wednesday night turns out to be the worst outing of the season for Buchholz? That’s an optimistic outlook for sure, but it is still too soon to discount the possibility.

The Red Sox have to get a feel for the entire rotation before making any moves. The reality is that aside from the return of a healthy Eduardo Rodriguez, the Red Sox don’t have any easy fixes available in the foreseeable future.

Henry Owens did not do enough this spring to convince the Red Sox that he’s ready for a spot in the starting rotation. Roenis Elias is another option who looks no better, and possibly worse than the current collection of arms.

For the Red Sox the options are to wait for at least one and ideally two of their non-David Price starters to get into a groove, or begin the process of trying to pull off a trade that would add a solid starter to the roster.

The trade options always play well with fans, until the reality of what a trade would involve sets in.

A realistic scenario in which the Red Sox acquire a starter who is significantly better than what the bulk of the current rotation offers, is most likely going to require the team to part with at least one, and possibly two players that most fans would balk at dealing.

Most fans like guys like Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Anderson Espinoza, Rafael Devers and Sam Travis. Red Sox brass is pretty fond of those guys as well, and they’re going to be understandably hesitant to part with any one of them.

Christian Vasquez, Brian Johnson, and Michael Kopech are all solid prospects, but each of them comes with enough baggage that they’re not going to be nearly enough to acquire any sort of legitimate major league starter.

All three are currently injured or recovering from injuries. In Kopech’s case there’s a failed PED test and an incident in which he got into a physical altercation with a teammate. Do all three players have trade value? Yes, most definitely, but not one of them has enough value to headline a deal that would bring a legitimate major league starting pitcher to Boston.

Henry Owens would still make for an attractive piece of trade bait, but even Owens value has taken a hit. After all, if he’s such a good major league pitching prospect, then why can’t he crack a starting rotation that is clearly in need of help?

Finally if Buchholz subpar first outing turns out to be not all that much worse than what the team gets out of Porcello, Kelly and Wright, then Red Sox brass needs to think long and hard about just how desperate they are to win in 2016?

Adding one more good starter won’t be enough to put the team into the playoffs, not if the rotation is still relying on three below average options for more than 50 percent of the starts.

For now the Red Sox need to do what the other 29 major league teams must do. They’ve got to wait and see how this pans out. There’s simply no way to properly assess what the team needs, and how badly they need it until May at the earliest.

Buchholz might not even be the rotation’s weakest link (a scary thought, but not an irrational one.)

That means that as of now, Clay Buchholz will be on the mound for the home opener this coming Monday against Baltimore. Barring injury (yea-yea) fans should get used to seeing Buchholz once every five games, through April and into May and beyond.

As for Joe Kelly? The Red Sox get their first look at the self-proclaimed Cy Young caliber starter Thursday night. Two games into the season and the Red Sox bullpen has already pitched seven out of a possible 17 innings. The pen could use a rest tonight, and the Red Sox really need Joe Kelly to step-up and provide at least six innings of effective work.

 

About the Author

Ben Shapiro
Red Sox columnist for ESPN New Hampshire. Originally from Western Massachusetts, I currently live in New York City with my wife and dog. I've previously written for Huffington Post, Bleacher Report and MassLive.com

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