Time to scrap struggling Sox rotation
BALTIMORE — First, a little voodoo for the Red Sox starters.
Take all five of those “I’m the Ace’’ T-shirts Clay Buchholz passed out in spring training, run a lawn mower over them, place the shredded remnants on top of the pitching rubber at Fenway Park, squirt an entire can of lighter fluid on them and throw a match on the pile.
The acrid fumes and ashes can serve as a reminder that the Sox’ best hopes of fielding a serviceable and even effective rotation have gone up in flames in the early going of the 2015 season.
The crutch of the small sample size no longer applies to the Red Sox’ starting five. Nineteen games into the season, they have combined for an alarming and atrocious 5.75 ERA, giving up 66 earned runs in 1031/3 innings.
The charade of the ace-a-day idea is over. Nice try, but it didn’t quite catch.
Now, the Red Sox need to fix their rotation before it’s too late and this recent tailspin of six losses in their last nine tries begins to get out of hand.
The first place to start is by finding an honorable path for yesterday’s starter Wade Miley to take a vacation from pitching in this rotation and allow one of the promising young left-handers — Brian Johnson or Eduardo Rodriguez — at Triple-A Pawtucket to come up for at least a couple of tries.
For the second time in his four Sox starts, Miley failed to get out of the third inning, a feat that is as remarkable as it is distressing for somebody with a reputation as an innings-eater when he got traded here from Arizona.
Miley said everything is fine physically, but let’s not take his word for it. A starter who just got his lunch handed to him is usually loathe to admit to a nagging injury anywhere, but would anyone be shocked to discover that he actually needs some down time?
It’s happened before.
It would be for the benefit of everybody’s well-being, especially Miley’s, if he could get away and spend some time re-discovering his inning-eating, strike-throwing ways.
Manager John Farrell wasn’t interested in finding an escape route for Miley.
“We just walked off the field,” said a grim-looking Farrell after the 18-7 shellacking to the Orioles. “I don’t have that.”
Miley had a 1-2-3 first inning, allowed an unearned run in the four-batter second, and then sustained an inexplicable meltdown in the third. He gave up two singles sandwiched around an out, then walked Manny Machado on four pitches and did the same to Adam Jones, forcing in a run. Over that stretch, he tossed balls on 11-of-12 pitches.
What came next was a RBI single by Delmon Young, a two-run double by Chris Davis, a RBI single from Steve Pearce and then a Miley trip to the showers. This is beyond the pale of an effective or even middling major league starter, which Miley is not right now.
One can’t fault Miley for failing to explain the stretch: “I don’t know, I just didn’t make pitches, I really don’t have an answer right now,” he offered, as well as, “They weren’t going over the plate, I don’t know.”
But he has to be held accountable for it, as well as his other blow-up start against the Nationals, when he allowed seven runs in the same 21/3 innings as yesterday.
“Each game is different, but just command of the strike zone,” said Farrell about any similarity to Miley’s poor starts. “To their credit, they put the bat on some balls, they squared some balls up, they found some holes. Seemingly offensively they did whatever they wanted to today.”
When an opposing lineup does whatever it wants, the situation is exactly how Miley described it: An embarrassment.
“It’s just embarrassing,” he said. “I know I’m better than this. . . . Both those games, I didn’t give us a chance at all. And it’s so hard for an offense to keep going when a starter goes out in the third inning and gives up seven runs. I’ve got to do a better job.”
Each of the other four starters — Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly — each has a stinker to his credit not too far off from the pair from Miley.
Even though the Sox scored seven runs, they could not come close to overcoming the Orioles.
It’s never a good idea to take too much away from a debacle like yesterday. Every team suffers through a couple of those each season, and no doubt the Red Sox will be the ones dishing them out a few times this season as well.
But the Red Sox rotation is nowhere near as good as was advertised by the ballclub, and by Buchholz’ T-shirts in Fort Myers.
It’s time to not just dispense the slogan, but start to address changing the personnel, too.