After four inconsistent seasons, Boston left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez posted a 19-6 record in 2019 with 3.81 ERA and a league-leading 34 starts. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

People movin’ out, people movin’ in …

Motown fans may recognize the opening lyrics from the Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion.” The lyrics and title aptly describing the Boston Red Sox these days.

Mookie Betts and David Price are gone (any day now), the manager’s seat is still vacant (or is it, Ron Roenicke?) and an upcoming commissioner’s report on sign-stealing hangs over the collective heads of the Red Sox.


Yes, but that is not the concern as Boston opens spring training camp this week in Florida – pitchers and catchers report Tuesday, their first official workout on Wednesday.

The concern is the group headed toward the mounds at the Red Sox complex in Ft. Myers.

Pitching will determine Boston’s fate. Whoever is managing this team – and whoever is playing right field – it won’t matter a lick if the Red Sox cannot pitch better than they did in 2019.

Price’s presence will be missed in the rotation, but that is not the overriding concern.

How are the elbows?

Will  E-Rod be consistent?

Is Perez a fit?

Who will take the fifth spot in the rotation?

Are bullpen leaks plugged?

Answer those questions with positive results and Boston returns to October baseball.

• Chris Sale is the ace who was shut down last August with elbow inflammation. When healthy, Sale can still dominate, averaging 1.48 strikeouts per inning last year. But in Sale’s first two seasons in Boston, he won 29 games with a 2.56 ERA. Last year, Sale looked great at times, horrible at others: 6-11, 4.40 ERA. For Boston, Sale’s health is everything.

• Nathan Eovaldi’s elbow problems began last April and required minor surgery. He came back with mediocre results – 2-1, 5.98 ERA in 19 games (eight starts). But Red Sox fans know what Eovaldi can do on all cylinders, say, a 1.61 ERA in the 2018 postseason. There is hope, but worries over his elbow – which has undergone two Tommy John surgeries – will not go away.

• Eduardo Rodriguez followed four inconsistent/injured seasons with one of the league’s best last year – 19-6, 3.81 ERA and a league-leading 34 starts. Can he follow one dependable year with another?

• Martin Perez was a little-splash free agent signing, for $6 million. After eight seasons and a 5.25 career ERA (5.66 last year, with Minnesota), Perez won’t necessarily fill the holes of Rick Porcello or Price, but Perez has won 10 or more games in three of his last four seasons.

• The fifth starter is a mystery. Hector Velazquez is back. Mostly a long reliever, he had eight starts last year (1-3, 6.95). Brian Johnson also returns, although no longer on the 40-man roster. A good spring could put him back in the rotation. Long-shot possibilities are Darwinzon Hernandez, Kyle Hart or Tanner Houck, all of whom pitched in Portland last year. Hernandez landed in Boston’s bullpen last year, but came up the minors as a starter. As for the other two, Hart is on the 40-man roster, Houck is not. Both are likely set for Pawtucket’s rotation. One possibility is Velazquez or another reliever in an “opener” role.

• The Boston bullpen blew it last year, literally with only a 52-percent save percentage (second worst in the league). The relievers were actually holding up early, but a lack of depth caused an implosion, especially with the starters exiting early (Boston starters ranked eighth in innings pitched).

Boston still does not have a sure-fire closer, although Brandon Workman seems the top contender; his 1.08 ERA/1.03 WHIP last year were well ahead of his teammates. Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, lefties Josh Taylor and Hernandez, and newcomer Austin Brice (from the Marlins) will be counted on. Bullpen construction is a tricky business and new president Chaim Bloom will be challenged to fix the relief corps.

The pitchers begin to throw this week, fastballs being a welcome sight after the recent balls of confusion. Recent headlines are filled with news about trades, possible managers and commissioner investigations – all important, but don’t be distracted. Keep an eye on the arms.

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