Anthony Ranaudo wasn't going to make it into the Red Sox rotation to start 2015, and things were just as crowded at Triple-A Pawtucket. Rather than stick Ranaudo in the bullpen, Boston sent him packing to the Texas Rangers in order to get the lefty reliever they needed right now. Robbie Ross comes back to the Red Sox, immediately strengthening their bullpen.
Ross and Ranaudo are actually the same age, with Ross born in early June of 1989 and Ranaudo in September. The difference is that Ranaudo has just now sort of figured out Triple-A and has struggled in the majors thanks to spotty command and the lack of a reliable third pitch, while Ross put up a 163 ERA+ over his first 123 games in relief. Things were iffier in 2014, with Ross splitting time between the bullpen and starting thanks to the overwhelming volume of injuries in Texas: he did not succeed in either role, seeing his strikeouts drop considerably while his homer rate jumped up to one per nine and his ERA climbed over six. His velocity also dropped the mid to the low 90s as he bounced around between roles, so the Sox are probably hoping that by keeping him in one place he'll be consistent -- and successful -- once more.
As Craig Breslow is the only lefty in the pen, Ross is likely joining him to return the full-time relief work that he found so much success in prior to last year's disaster. This could put Drake Britton's roster spot in jeopardy, as he is out of options and was a mess in 2014. It also gives the Red Sox a chance to keep lefty pitching prospect Edwin Escobar as a starter at Triple-A, or to let him figure out the full-time relief life against minor-league hitters before bringing him up mid-season. There is room for either Escobar or knuckler Steven Wright to join Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Brian Johnson in the Rhode Island rotation, and you can throw Brandon Workman in the mix as well -- at this point, though, it seems like they will want him to be in relief somewhere.
Either way, we might not see the Sox make that call until spring training is behind them. You know, in case Ross isn't right by the time the season rolls around. His 2014 was really, really not good.
The 6-foot-7 Ranaudo was a first-round pick of the Red Sox back in 2010, and he came highly regarded but with apparent flaws. His health was a question mark -- it's why Ranaudo was a sandwich-round pick instead of a top-10 selection -- as was his ability to consistently hit his spots or repeat his motion. He never developed a third pitch to complement his promising curve, and while he had a solid season as far as ERA goes at Pawtucket, his strikeout rate did not impress and caused concern for what he could manage in the majors. All of that being said, Ranaudo could be a fantastic reliever if someone were to put him in that role. If you're wondering why the Sox didn't just do that, remember that he's right handed, and also that Ross isn't a free agent until 2019 as he has just over two years of service time.