Sean O'Sullivan will start for the Red Sox on Friday night, having done enough in two of his three outings to convince the Red Sox that he could offer a credible spot start that would offer the team a chance to win against the Rays. But the team is hopeful that a more permanent, stabilizing solution will be pitching elsewhere at the same time that O'Sullivan is on the mound at Fenway.
At a time when the Sox are openly discussing their need to improve the performance of the last two spots in their rotation, the pitcher who has the chance to make the biggest impact in addressing that deficiency will be starting for Triple A Pawtucket. Lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez, despite his struggles this year, is still viewed by the organization as a pitcher who, if he returns to the form of the final months of 2015, can reshape the rotation.
"I'm surprised Eduardo Rodriguez has pitched the way he's pitched. I had a chance to see him myself. I know he was hurt, but I thought he'd be a very good big league pitcher for us this year," said Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. "Eduardo Rodriguez should be a good pitcher. … If people would be looking to say we're going to be getting someone more talented than Eduardo Rodriguez, it's not going to happen. They're just not out there. They're not out there and available. Sometimes you've got to fix some things internally. We'll see what happens."
Rodriguez, who went 1-3 with an 8.59 ERA while averaging fewer than five innings in six big league starts, threw seven shutout innings with four strikeouts, two walks, and just two singles allowed in his return to Pawtucket on Sunday. He has time to make perhaps four or five starts before the trade deadline. What happens in those outings can play a significant role in shaping the Sox' approach to the trade deadline.
Of course, the difficult spot for the Sox is that they can't assume the lefthander will be productive this year. Other teams undoubtedly will view him as a tantalizing buy-low target, hoping to pry him from the Sox in any deal for an established starting pitcher, forcing the Sox into the sort of challenging present vs. future dilemmas that impacts organizations for years.
But there's little doubt the most significant potential addition to the rotation would not be a pitcher from outside the organization who would require dealing from the team's top prospect reserves, but instead a return to 2015 form by Rodriguez.
And so, even as the Sox take on the Rays at Fenway, they'll be keeping a close watch on what's happening in Durham, wondering whether Rodriguez can take another step that allows the interests of the 2016 team to align more closely with those of future clubs.
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