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Time for Red Sox to bring in outside pitching help

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Clay Buchholz got a quick visit from pitching coach Carl Willis in a three-run first, then threw four shutout innings.EPA

ARLINGTON, Texas — It's not a manager problem, as some fans have suggested on Twitter. It's a personnel problem. With the Red Sox now four games back of the American League East-leading Orioles, the Sox roster needs to recalibrate after a series against Texas that featured poor starting pitching and a thin back end of the roster made up of Triple A players.

However, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who held a long meeting with manager John Farrell after Sunday's 6-2 loss, isn't anticipating being able to solve any issues just yet.

"We're scuffling right now. It's just the way it is," Dombrowski said. "We're not pitching well, but we're not playing very well overall, so we need to snap out of it."


Dombrowski painted the picture of what he saw in trying to improve the roster.

"First of all, we have nine guys on the disabled list, plus we have guys on the disabled list on the minor league level that we would normally bring up," he said. "So we're scuffling for positional players at this point. The depth in our lineup doesn't help. We only have so many players in an organization that are capable of helping the big league club at a particular time.

"The problem you run into is that some of those players are coming back relatively soon so you can't go out and make a trade for some positional player and give up one of your top prospects that somebody asks for a two-week or a week situation."

In other words, with Brock Holt on the verge of coming back after a good game with Pawtucket on Sunday, why would you give up a lot to acquire a left fielder? With Blake Swihart about two weeks away, why would you go out and get another positional player?


Pitching, however, is a different story.

"We had a bad series pitching-wise — at least most of the guys did, I wouldn't say all of them. We need to pitch better and play better," Dombrowski said, referring to stinkers put up by starters David Price, Steven Wright, and Clay Buchholz. "I think the thing you have to remember is that it takes two clubs to make a deal, and most clubs, as I've said all along, really aren't prepared to move toward 2017 and be in a position to move. There are probably five clubs looking at that."

Those five teams are likely Atlanta (with Julio Teheran, Bud Norris, and Arodys Vizciano attractive to other teams ), Minnesota (Ervin Santana), San Diego (Drew Pomeranz), Milwaukee (nobody), and Cincinnati and Philadelphia (not much there). And soon Oakland will join the group.

Neither Farrell nor Dombrowski committed to Buchholz making his next start, though Dombrowski came closer with, "I anticipate he'll start for us again. You're asking me questions and we haven't had time to have those discussions."

The Red Sox don't have much choice but to go with Buchholz. Blame him for the Red Sox falling behind, 3-0, in the first inning on Sunday. Credit him for bowing his neck in the Texas heat and throwing four shutout innings after that and saving the bullpen. Blame him for five walks. Blame him for Prince Fielder's vicious line-drive homer down the right-field line after Xander Bogaerts committed an error to start the sixth.


These are the trials and tribulations of Buchholz.

The Red Sox need him to be good, and he's just not there. Nobody really understands what has happened to him. This should be the prime of his career. He should be motivated to pitch well given there's a $13.5 million option for 2017 on his contract.

Buchholz, who has had an injury-prone career, has avoided injuries this season. For the first time in his career, he was demoted to the bullpen, then pitched fairly well and rejoined the rotation. In his first start back in the rotation, on June 21, Buchholz allowed three runs in five innings. On Sunday, he went 5 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits.

Buchholz isn't trying to be lousy, but there are meltdowns in every game that aren't allowing him to break this malaise.

On a day when David Ortiz is out of the starting lineup, you have to account for the fact the offense won't be as good. And now Bogaerts is making errors (three in his last four games). He complained about his legs being weak, after Farrell said Bogaerts was tired and needed a day off. Bogaerts said, "We're human. My legs are tired. I can feel it in my throws."

Buchholz was not going to be replaced early in this game, no matter how bad the score got. He gave up four straight singles in the first inning for two runs, then walked Fielder and allowed a third run on a single by Rougned Odor. The killer with a couple of those hits was giving them up on 0-and-2 counts.

But then, Buchholz got better. He got Elvis Andrus to knock into a 5-2-3 double-play, and after an intentional walk to Mitch Moreland (after he'd fallen behind in the count), he got Bryan Holaday to fly to left for the third out. And from there, he was pretty good. It was more like the Buchholz we've seen in previous years.


Scouts on hand view Buchholz as a possible trade acquisition and a guy who can be turned around quickly. But they have certainly seen blemishes this year, and while he's intriguing to teams, none would likely offer anything substantial to obtain him.

"In the first inning, there were not a whole lot of balls hit hard," said Buchholz. "They were hit where we weren't. I left a curveball up, but they weren't hit hard. I held them down after that. It's not the way you script it. First pitch of the game, [Shin-Soo] Choo hits the first pitch of the game. I've watched a lot of video, and it's probably the first time I've seen Choo swing at the first pitch."

The bottom line is, the Red Sox' roster is weaker than it's been at any time this season. It's time to bring in some outside help.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.