On Tuesday afternoon, roughly 18 hours removed from the conclusion of a solid five-inning, two-run start against the Astros, Garrett Whitlock diligently sprinted up and down the stairs of Fenway Park’s grandstand. That effort represented the start of his five-day between-starts routine — something with which the righthander will become increasingly familiar.
Manager Alex Cora suggested that Monday’s outing against the Astros ― one in which Whitlock worked into the sixth inning — “is going to be the norm” for Whitlock moving forward.
“We feel very confident where we’re at right now with him,” said Cora.
Whitlock has made five starts, logging 20 innings with a 3.15 ERA, 26 strikeouts, and 8 walks in the role. Cora said he can now be treated like a starter.
With that plan, it’s now clear: Whitlock’s role is not a matter of conversation for the time being. Tanner Houck will remain in the bullpen and pitch in a multi-innings role, as Cora dismissed the idea of having Houck in a traditional closer’s role.
“[Houck] can do what Garrett did last year,” said Cora. “We feel comfortable with [Whitlock] in this role and we have four other starters. Tanner can do the job he did last year [as a multi-innings reliever] in September.”
The rotation has been a Red Sox strength. The team’s starters entered Tuesday with a 3.30 ERA, seventh best in MLB, albeit with a relatively modest workload (roughly 4⅔ innings per game). In adding Whitlock to Nate Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, Rich Hill, and Michael Wacha, Cora sees the potential to anchor the team’s staff.
Though the bullpen entered Tuesday with a major league-leading 10 blown saves and 12 relief losses along with a 4.21 ERA, Cora believes the team is close to having the pitching staff structure that can be the basis of success. The Sox manager feels that the ability of Houck, Matt Strahm, and John Schreiber to contribute multiple innings and handle both righties and lefties can give the team a path to improvement. Hansel Robles is likewise viewed as a late-innings option
“We believe that this is going to work,” said Cora. “I do believe we’re very close to have the structure that we want and then from there, we roll.”
Wacha getting close
Wacha (left intercostal soreness) felt fine the day after throwing two simulated innings against teammates. He’ll throw a short bullpen session Wednesday, after which the Red Sox will decide whether he can be activated from the 15-day injured list to start against the Mariners in a four-game weekend series.
Odorizzi placed on 15-day IL
The Astros placed righthander Jake Odorizzi on the 15-day injured list, one day after he was taken off the field on a cart after the fifth inning after suffering what Houston described as “lower left leg discomfort.” Odorizzi underwent an MRI on Tuesday. “I was pleased with what I saw,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker. “I was surprised it wasn’t swollen or black and blue. Hopefully that’s a good sign.” . . . Top Red Sox pitching prospect Brayan Bello, who dominated in Double A this year, will make his debut for Triple A Worcester on Wednesday . . . WooSox lefthander Darwinzon Hernandez was placed on the seven-day injured list with an MCL strain in his left knee . . . Triston Casas, the second-ranked prospect in the Red Sox system, rolled his ankle in Worcester’s game Tuesday night and was removed for precautionary reasons . . . Righthander Carlos Martínez, who was signed to a minor league deal by the Red Sox this month, was released after making two starts in which he allowed 10 runs in 4⅓ innings for the WooSox . . . Wednesday’s game between the Red Sox and Astros will start at 6:10 p.m.