From the wreckage, the Red Sox will try to identify pieces of the foundation.
The final two months of the year for an out-of-contention team represent an opportunity to search for hope. The chances afforded to prospects -- particularly in a year where the Red Sox did not make any additions for next year at the trade deadline -- represent the team’s opportunity to start to improve and find solutions.
A year ago, the Red Sox encountered a mixed bag in that undertaking. Xander Bogaerts clawed his way back from the abyss in the season’s final month, and Mookie Betts asserted himself as a potential lineup force in August and September.
But aside from Steven Wright making a case for himself as a viable depth option, an open pitching audition proved a widespread failure. Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman, and Anthony Ranaudo all had opportunities to make a case that they could help provide a solution for a big league rotation with three 2015 vacancies. All fell short, resulting in De La Rosa, Webster, and Ranaudo being dealt, and Workman moving to the bullpen (a role in which he’s been unable to contribute this year after undergoing Tommy John surgery). The Sox had little choice but to acquire three starters from outside the organization, and the acquisitions of Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, and Justin Masterson did not offer the sought-after upgrade.
The Sox will hope for more from their prospect pool this year, with Tuesday representing a critical point of departure. Henry Owens will make his big league debut in Yankee Stadium, at a time when he’s been locked into one of the most consistent stretches of his career. Regardless of how he performs, Owens won’t eliminate the need for the Sox to acquire a frontline starter with a big league track record. But if he impresses down the stretch, the Sox will have either a key depth option to start next year or the ability to commit a rotation spot to him while contemplating the possibility of a trade involving one of their veteran starters.
Of course, Owens isn’t the first Red Sox pitching prospect to get an opportunity this year. Eduardo Rodriguez has already asserted himself as a likely future building block of the starting five. But the Sox’ efforts to cultivate homegrown depth may have taken a hit on Monday, with the news that Brian Johnson will land on Pawtucket’s disabled list after experiencing tightness in his elbow at the end of his start on Sunday.
The extent of Johnson’s injury remains to be seen. The lefthander is being reevaluated today to determine his outlook going forward. At the least, however, even if he’ll simply require a period of rest, Johnson’s opportunity to showcase his talents in the big leagues in 2015 has been delayed, if not postponed until next year.
For a Sox organization in need of identifying pitching solutions, the development represents a dark cloud on an already-stormy time. The team will hope that Owens offers the hint of brighter days.