Red Sox starting rotation coming into focus

By WEEI 93.7

Last year at this time your Red Sox' starting rotation included Chris Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez.

When the 2020 season rolls around on July 24 the group will look dramatically different. Eovaldi will be there, almost certainly pitching the opener against the Orioles at Fenway Park. After that? Martin Perez, Ryan Weber, Brian Johnson and an opener that will likely be followed by the likes of Matt Hall, Colten Brewer or another reliever few would have pegged for pitching the second, third and fourth innings of any Red Sox games this year.

A reminder regarding an adjustment when it comes to the perception of this starting rotation came Monday when manager Ron Roenicke broached the topic of Hall's outing in the most recent intrasquad scrimmage.

"Matt Hall I thought was really good today," Roenicke said via his daily Zoom meeting with the local media. "We know he’s got a good curveball. He showed that today. Talking to our hitters commenting on the curveball. That is a real nice weapon he has. And he threw the fastball well. He kind of cuts it in on right-handers. I was really impressed with him today."

So, is he a candidate to become that bulk-inning guy behind the Red Sox' opener? You know, another Jalen Beeks (for those familiar with the Tampa Bay way of rolling out openers)?

"Yes, he is," Roenicke said. "=We know we’re comfortable with him going, whether it’s two, three, four innings, we know he can do that. I think how durable a guy is, how quickly he can bounce back is really important in this role. Sometimes a starter, you pitch him three or four innings, if you can’t pitch him for five days that doesn’t work really well in the bullpen. Whoever can be more durable, give us those innings, hopefully, throw up a lot of zeroes to give this good offense a chance to score a bunch of runs, it’s important. I don’t want to say just eat up innings because that kind of gives you the idea that we’re behind and we’re just trying to cover ourselves, but you need to pitch some innings. Matt is one of those guys, again, I’ve mentioned four or five guys are in that boat. He looked really good today."

Roenicke said Matt Hall in mix to be guy after Opener in fifth spot. Here is his showdown with Rafael Devers today (courtesy Red Sox FB page and my excellent editing abilities) ...

— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) July 13, 2020

When Spring Training 1.0 Brewer had emerged as the most logical pitcher to fill the aforementioned spot, having purposedly being stretched out to three innings in his last outing. And the righty remains firmly in the mix, as does another intrasquad scrimmage standout Jeffrey Springs (the guy the Red Sox got from Texas in exchange for Sam Travis). 

But now, after Monday's outing, Hall is firmly in the conversation.

In case you aren't familiar with the left-hander's work, the 26-year-old was actually one of Bloom's first trades, coming over from Detroit in exchange for minor-leaguer Jhon Nunez. Hall has appeared in 21 big-league outings (all in relief), including 16 with the Tigers last season. 

A sixth-round pick by the Tigers in the 2015 MLB Draft, Hall didn't exactly set the world on fire in Spring Training 1.0, giving up four runs in three innings while walking four. But Hall's history is intriguing.

The former Missouri State southpaw led Division 1 in strikeouts in 2015, coming off a stint with Falmouth in the Cape Cod League when he fanned 47 in 42 2/3 innings. In his minor league career, he has struck out 550 batters in 500 1/3 innings.

There is still a ways to go before the Opening Day 30-man roster is announced (with the Red Sox planning to add to the 50 participants they currently having making up the player pool in the coming days). But Hall has clearly taken a big step forward.

Ron Roenicke talking Matt Hall ...

— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) July 13, 2020

As for the other starters:

- Rodriguez doesn't appear to be an option for the first time through the rotation, still not having been cleared to come back from COVID-19.

- Eovaldi hasn't skipped a beat and seems in the same form he exhibited when dominating Spring Training 1.0, which saw the righty not give a run over his eight innings, striking out 12 and walking one.

- Perez was inconsistent in his first intrasquad game action, but feels that he is prepared to hit the ground running at least in terms of giving five-plus innings.

- Like Eovaldi, Weber has built on his Spring Training 1.0 performance (9 innings, no earned runs, 11 strikeouts, no walks) and is firmly entrenched behind Perez in the rotation.

- Johnson, who is pitching as a non-roster invitee after being designated for assignment in the offseason, appears to have locked in a spot in the rotation, showing his 2018 form thus far in this second round of spring training.