The Red Sox are in a bit of a snag right now, which isn’t a huge deal since, ya know, it’s March 9. This isn’t something to worry about looking ahead to the regular season, as we know the correlation between spring performance and what we see when the games start to matter isn’t great. That said, it’s also not super fun to watch. In this game, the offense did have a few more good swings than they’d had in the last few, though the runs total wasn’t any better. The real issue was the pitching. Specifically, it was the pitching from the three guys in the middle, all of whom hope to play varying roles in the majors this year.
Matt Barnes struggles in his first appearance on 2019
The Red Sox are easing the pitchers who had big workloads last October into the 2019 season, which makes sense. Alex Cora, as we all remember, leaned towards getting his guys as much rest as possible after a mostly normal offseason last year. It only makes sense he’d be even more extreme after 2018’s long playoff run. Eduardo Rodriguez is the only rotation member who has pitched so far — and he, of course, didn’t start in the postseason last year — and Matt Barnes hadn’t pitched heading into Saturday. That changed against the Mets, and it didn’t go well. The righty, who is likely to take over as closer this season with Craig Kimbrel all but certainly playing elsewhere, was hit hard by the Mets lineup. In all, Barnes allowed three runs over an inning of work. In that time he did strike out one, but he also gave up a triple, two doubles and a single. Rust is to be expected here, of course, and we can’t make any judgements off a pitcher’s first appearance. Still, given the mostly legitimate concerns about this team’s bullpen all eyes are going to be on their performances this spring.
Tyler Thornburg struggles again
Coming in after Barnes was Tyler Thornburg, who had already made a few appearances this spring before Saturday’s game and has struggled. After all of his outings the Red Sox coaches have made sure to mention that Thornburg’s velocity and just general stuff looks better this year, but based on the results he still hasn’t been too tough to hit. This was yet another tough day for the righty, who like Barnes allowed three runs in an inning of work. Thornburg also struck out one batter, but he also gave up a mammoth home run to Peter Alonso along with three base hits. After this game, the former Brewer has now allowed seven runs over four innings in four appearances on ten hits (two homers), two walks and two strikeouts. If he’s healthy I don’t think there’s much of a chance that Thornburg misses out on the Opening Day roster — the only other option is to designate him for assignment — but even in that scenario you have to imagine the leash is going to be short.
- The offense only scored two runs in this game, but they did have some extra-base hits and seven hits altogether. That’s a bit of a step forward from the last couple games. Christian Vázquez, who has struggled mightily at the plate to this point, was Boston’s only player with two hits. He went 2-3 with a double and a single. Rafael Devers had a triple and Mitch Moreland had a double.
- Eduardo Rodriguez got the start for Boston. If you’ll recall, Alex Cora was publicly critical of the lefty after his last outing, saying he needed to be more efficient. Rodriguez took that to heart early, throwing only 15 pitches in his first two innings with 13 being strikes. He slowed down a bit towards the end, but overall he still allowed just one run over four innings on three singles and a walk with three strikeouts. Overall, Cora was happy with what he saw on Saturday.
- Rounding out the day for the pitching was Josh Taylor and Domingo Tapia. The former had a very good seventh, giving up just a single with two strikeouts and a pop out. His second inning of work was rougher, though, as the Mets tagged him for three runs on a double, two singles and a walk. Taylor will start the year in the minors, but as he’s already on the 40-man he will have a real chance to get a call to the majors at some point this summer. Tapia pitched an easy 1-2-3 ninth. He is more of emergency depth, though given Boston’s potential need for reinforcements it wouldn’t be totally shocking if he pitched his way into a real opportunity at some point this year.