In retrospect, we should have seen this coming.
Of the top seven starting pitchers on the Boston Red Sox coming into the 2023 season, there was only one — ONE! — who wasn’t a complete question mark due to either age, injury, or lack of experience. That man was Nick Pivetta, the mediocre innings-eating Canadian. If you go into a season only being able to count on Nick Pivetta, that probably means you don’t have much going for you.
Still, we had some, hope, didn’t we? Remember those first few Chris Sale starts? He was all smiles and strikeouts to open the season against the Orioles at Fenway. He looked damn near dominant against the Tigers and Rays the next week! But then, that now infamous Patriots Day game against the Angels . . .
We knew Chris Sale was going to get hurt again eventually. We didn’t know that a reporter covering the marathon in a helicopter would drop a pen from 1,500 feet up in the air, sending a tiny, ink-filled missile directly into the crook of Chris Sale’s elbow. The season wasn’t technically over by the time the grounds crew shoveled the blood off the mound and the game resumed, but it sure seemed like it. The Red Sox failed to score a single run that day, as Shohei Ohtani threw a complete game gem, striking out Masataka Yoshida four times in doing so.
Bello went down next, that dreaded forearm tightness returning and leading to the Tommy John procedure we’d all feared. James Paxton never even made it back to Boston, injuring himself first during a rehab stint in April, and then in another rehab stint from that injury in July. Garrett Whitlock did make it back, but struggled to miss bats for two months before finally being moved to the bullpen. Looks like he isn’t the solid, top of the rotation starter we all hoped he’d be.
But at least Whitlock pitched well in the bullpen, and boy did we need it. Remind me again why we ever thought 35-year-old Kenley Jansen, 36-year-old Chris Martin, and 35-year-old Richard Bleier would come in and revamp our relief corps?
Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Rafael Devers put together another all-star season, even if, like last year, his overall production fell a little short of the superstar status we’ve been hoping for. On the other side of the diamond, Triston Casas displayed an advanced batting eye and, given his size, we have to think he’ll start turning some of those warning track outs into homers next year, and end up with more than the modest 14 he totaled in 2023.
But one All Star and one promising rookie weren’t enough to carry the team out of the cellar. Not when the man who was the team’s third hitter coming into the season, 38-year-old Justin Tuner, looked very much like a 38-year-old and found himself relegated to pinch hitting duty for the second half of the season. Not when the man brought in to the be the team’s center fielder, career-long corner outfielder Adam Duvall, looked very much like a career-long corner outfielder. Not when the team cycled through four different second basemen throughout the season — first Christian Arroyo, then Adalberto Mondesi, then Enmanuel Valdez, and finally Ceddanne Rafaela. Rafaela flashed an outstanding glove and looks like a promising big league defender (especially considering he’d barely ever played on the right side of the bag in the minors), but his free-swinging approach looks like it’s going to limit his offensive upside.
But hey, Nick Pivetta was there, every five days. It’s not a great time to be a Red Sox fan. In retrospect, we should have seen this coming.