Red Sox starting pitcher Zack Godley, left, is relieved by Manager Ron Roenicke, center right, in the fourth inning of Boston’s game at Yankee Stadium on Saturday night.  John Minchillo/Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox have played 10 games. That in itself should be looked at as a victory of some sort. The simple fact that the Red Sox were able to navigate the start of the season and get this far puts them ahead of some teams.

As we predicted in the spring, the most important stat in baseball this summer is the number of positive COVID-19 cases a team has on a given day. Over the weekend, 20 percent of major league games were postponed because of the virus. Some teams have lost as many as seven games on the schedule, and we’re not yet two weeks into it.

Baseball has changed safety protocols, tightening CDC recommendations and once again urging players to stay distant on the playing field and the sidelines. Not all teams have followed those suggestions, as we’ve seen from highlights of teams celebrating home runs and walk-off wins.

The Red Sox have taken the precautions seriously. So far they haven’t had any positive cases develop after arriving for training camp 2.0 last month.

They also haven’t had much pitching.

The Sox are 1-7 in games not started by Nathan Eovaldi, the one starting pitcher remaining from the 2018 championship team. The most recent loss came Sunday night in the Bronx when they took the lead against the New York Yankees four different times but couldn’t find the pitching to protect it.

Last week Xander Bogaerts, one of the leaders of this team, expressed the frustration of trying to outscore opponents when your pitching staff is suspect.

“If you’ve got to score eight, nine, 10 runs every game,” said Bogaerts, “I think honestly it’s a little tough.”

There are still 50 games to go, plenty of time for any team to get on a roll. How crazy is a short season? If the expanded playoffs were to begin today, the Orioles would be playing in the postseason.

Yet it is already evident that the Red Sox will be hard-pressed to patch together enough pitching to qualify. Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor are both rehabbing in Pawtucket, building up strength after positive tests. They are two of the team’s most important relievers, and Hernandez has spent most of his career as a starter. Manager Ron Roenicke said they may stretch him out to join the rotation this season.

Eduardo Rodriguez will not be joining that staff. The prohibitive Opening Day starter has been shut down for the season as he deals with myocarditis (swelling of the heart muscle), a complication of his fight with COVID-19.

His battle, and the team’s decision to shut him down, was a reminder just how fragile all of this is. The season teeters in the balance as teams deal with positive readings, inconclusive results and delays in testing.

The Red Sox baseball ops group desperately wants this season to continue, even if the team continues losing at this rate. The season must last until at least September for the Red Sox to reset the competitive balance tax to zero.

That was the goal when the Sox included David Price in the Mookie Betts trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. They’d been hamstrung with the highest level of tax and wanted to get under it as Chaim Bloom takes over baseball decisions.

Getting to Sept. 1 will be a major success for the Sox. Even if they don’t have a lot of success on the field.  If they get there they will clear a major hurdle in their plans to rebuild this team into a perennial contender.

Their hope is that the return of Rodriguez, followed by Chris Sale, will put this pitching staff back where it needs to be. For now, the auditions continue Tuesday night against the Rays.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column runs on Tuesdays in the Portland Press Herald.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: