The Red Sox are in the midst of a seven-game win streak after Saturday’s utter destruction of the Tampa Bay Rays, and much of the heavy lifting during this run has been from the starting pitching. It’s been a particularly impressive effort from this unit considering that arguably two of the team’s four best starters started the year on the shelf. One of them is set to make his return on Sunday, with Eduardo Rodriguez getting the nod for the series finale against the Rays. Of course, in order to bring Rodriguez back into the fold Boston needed to option someone back to Pawtucket. Unsurprisingly, it’s going to be Marcus Walden heading to Triple-A.
Marcus Walden heading to @PawSox— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) April 7, 2018
This was the most obvious move for the team to make and it really shouldn’t surprise anyone. Walden was the biggest surprise to make the team out of camp, which certainly isn’t to say that he didn’t earn it. The journeyman righty — who was pitching in Indy Ball just a few years ago — impressed all last season at Triple-A in a swingman role and then was spectacular this spring against Grapefruit League competition. He earned his shot in the majors, and handled himself fairly well all things considered. He got good results in two of his three outings to start the year, though most of his work was scattered with hard contact. Overall, he tossed five innings over three outings in which he allowed two earned runs on four hits and a walk with three strikeouts.
There are still a few questions to be answered after this move, though. For one thing, it’s not clear what Walden’s role will be in Pawtucket. The Triple-A roster only has four starters in it right now, and obviously the Red Sox don’t want to go with a four-man rotation on their top minor-league squad. On the other hand, it’s hard to see Walden getting a starting nod from the Red Sox this year, and his value will come out of the bullpen. They may not want to take him out of that role.
This brings us to question number two, which could lead us to an answer for question number one. That is, what happens to Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson for now. The immediate answer is that they are both going to the bullpen, as confirmed by Alex Cora. With the recent stretch of two days off in three days, the Red Sox can afford to skip a starter, which is what they’re doing by putting Chris Sale on the mound for Game One of the Yankees series. (They also have a day off before that series begins.) Johnson would presumably move back to the rotation after that, but Drew Pomeranz is hoping the be back before that spot in the rotation comes up again. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but my guess is that Boston’s plan will be to option Velazquez back to Pawtucket when Pomeranz is ready to return, putting Velazquez in Pawtucket’s rotation, Walden in Pawtucket’s bullpen and Johnson in Boston’s bullpen. Things can change between now and that point, though. For now, Walden is in Triple-A and Rodriguez is set to return to the major-league mound Sunday afternoon.