Ah, such joy mixed with such misery and confusion.
Clay Buchholz is out of the rotation. This is fantastic news. The Red Sox have decided to stop punting every fifth game! Huzzah! Eduardo Rodriguez will start on Tuesday, and while he may not quite be at 100%, his last start suggests he is at least close enough.
Clay Buchholz is into the bullpen. Well then.
I've already detailed (see above) why Buchholz doesn't really have a place in the bullpen, but there is a way to keep this move from being totally awful and simply make it sub-optimal: a three-man bench, and eight-man bullpen.
If the Red Sox choose to go to a three-man bench, utilizing Brock Holt's versatility to allow them to free up an extra roster spot for the bullpen, then Buchholz does not supplant any superior pitcher. Because make no mistake, right now, all seven of the relievers in the pen give Boston a better chance to win games. There's literally not one of them who is not a candidate for at least a medium-leverage situation. Tommy Layne? Give him the lefties, no matter what his tiny sample size splits say. Heath Hembree? The guy actually looks a bit like the closer-of-the-future the Giants once thought they had. Matt Barnes? Did you see him the other night? He might not be perfect, or fully-developed at the moment, but it's very hard to look as good as he did against the Rockies when there's really nothing there. Ross, at this point, doesn't even bear mentioning in particular, but I'll do so anyway to avoid the comments. He's just solid, plain-and-simple.
Who isn't solid? Clay Buchholz. Buchholz is a disaster waiting to happen anytime he's put into the game. There wasn't enough time between his first baserunner and his first homer allowed last night to get a replacement warm. He's miserable in bursts, and has been all year. Before last night's game, it was a matter of early implosions followed by solid innings of work. It's like they stapled a reliable long reliever to April 8th Joe Kelly. There is nothing in the Clay Buchholz equation that suggest he will actually be better as a reliever. In fact, when he doesn't have time to utilize his diverse-if-ineffective repertoire, he might well prove worse over the long haul.
Still, if Blake Swihart is, at least for now, Boston's left fielder, then that frees up Brock Holt to be the backup at pretty much every position but catcher (and, through the ability to back up left field, catcher as well!) and allows the Red Sox to simulate a full bench with three men. The only thing they wouldn't have is a pinch-hitter for the infield against lefties, and with the four guys they have out there right now, there's certainly no real need for that.
If that's how the Red Sox are playing this, then fine. We'll find out when they have to call up Eduardo Rodriguez to start on Tuesday. If they are adding Buchholz to the seven-man bullpen to make eight, then that's more-or-less fine. He can be called on only in mop-up situations, where even if he does pull the walk - walk - homer schtick it'll still leave the Red Sox with a sizeable lead that the rest of the pen can hold or, at worst, an even larger deficit they were not likely to recover from in the first place.
But if the Red Sox are actually forfeiting any one of their seven reasonable-to-ridiculous relievers for the sake of keeping Clay Buchholz in the majors rather than turning to the phantom disabled list? When all that serves to accomplish is to weaken the bullpen and keep Buchholz from figuring things out while staying stretched out as a starter just in case? It will be just a remarkably bad decision, where even the greatest of mental gymnastics struggle to produce a good reason behind ti.