MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

No reason for Red Sox to panic about rotation

Boston has Price, Kelly at top; Dombrowski not afraid to make trades

No reason for Red Sox to panic about rotation

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Take big, deep, relaxing breaths, Red Sox fans. Don't let them see you sweat. Besides, things may still turn out all right. Also, you have no choice at this point.

Let's be blunt about that part of the deal. Almost no team is willing to trade a quality starting pitcher this close to Opening Day. To acquire one now would mean overpaying, big-time.

For now, trust the process.

Are there worries?

Well, worrying with more than two weeks remaining in Spring Training is a good waste of time. On the other hand, Red Sox starting pitchers have a 4.99 ERA this spring. Two have been good. Others haven't.

"The results haven't been there," right-hander Clay Buchholz said. "We haven't clicked as a team yet."

All of which means nothing, and that's the bottom line.

"We've got some really good arms and guys who know how to pitch," Buchholz said. "That's all we're looking for right now."

Outlook: Buchholz, SP, BOS

Two starters, David Price (3.86 ERA) and Joe Kelly (1.38), have pitched well. Kelly continued a very solid spring, allowing the Cardinals one run in 4 2/3 innings on Saturday afternoon.

"I feel like that's another step in the right direction," Kelly said. "I felt like I had a pretty solid pitch mix today."

But No. 2 starter Eduardo Rodriguez is sidelined with a dislocated right knee and will begin the season on the disabled list. Two other projected starters, Rick Porcello and Buchholz, have spring ERAs of 12.00 and 6.75, respectively.

Now that pitchers are through the get-in-the-work starts and the dead-arm phase, it's time to start seeing results.

"We've got to hone things up, hone things in, particularly as a group," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "The consistent ability with our rotation to command the baseball is where the emphasis lies right now. Each guy has three starts remaining. That's clearly the emphasis."

There has already been speculation that the Red Sox could make a run at Chris Sale, Sonny Gray, James Shields or another top-of-the-rotation guy. Here's why such talk isn't ridiculous:

1. The Red Sox have one of the deepest Minor League systems in baseball. If they do decide to go get a pitcher, they're nicely positioned to do so.

2. New Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has a long history of making big, bold trades. He's also unafraid to deal prospects if it means getting the right guy.

Kelly one-run outing

To browse a list of players Dombrowski has acquired is to note some of baseball's biggest names: Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, Price, Ian Kinsler and Yoenis Cespedes.

However -- and don't you hate throwing cold water on something this good? -- Dombrowski says it's way, way too early to start talking about trades.

"I think our rotation will be fine," Dombrowski said. "We've got a quality No. 1 guy [in Price]. I think Buchholz is a quality pitcher. Right now, his stuff is fine. He's still trying to find his way back, command-wise, which is understandable. He has pitched three times off the mound since the All-Star Game last year.

"I think Eduardo Rodriguez is [sidelined] short-term. He threw yesterday, and threw well. Getting him back is really big. He's really good. And Porcello is a 12-to-15-game type winner at the big league level. We have a lot of guys competing for the No. 5 spot. I feel good about it."

As for making trades, Dombrowski acknowledged that he has been aggressive in the past. And maybe that time will come. But he said he's not even close now.

"We're not only interested in winning now," Dombrowski said. "We're interesting in winning for the long-term here, too. I've been in situations that were more short-term. I've never been hesitant to make moves, if I thought it would help us. But I will say, we're not just interested in winning now, which we're trying to do. We want to continue to win year after year."

Price's high expectations

Perhaps fueling the speculation is that young infielders Travis Shaw and Sam Travis have had very nice springs. Neither is likely to play much on the Red Sox. Shaw may get some at-bats in the outfield, but Travis will start the season in the Minors.

At this time last year, the Sox hoped Buchholz would grab the No. 1 starter's spot. In 2015, he had a 3.26 ERA in 18 starts, then didn't pitch the final three months because of a sore elbow.

Price's arrival puts Buchholz in a slightly different role.

"We got a lot better in one day when we signed David," Buchholz said. "You know what you're going to get. He can stop the bleeding or keep the winning streak going. You follow his lead."

As for himself, Buchholz said, "The results hadn't quite been there, but from what I've learned, sometimes it doesn't really matter what the results are here. The process is the big issue. I feel like everything we're doing is moving forward. It's all based on command, and that hadn't quite been exactly right. It's getting better every time out."

Dombrowski probably can be patient. While the Red Sox are favored by many to win the AL East, there's enough parity that the race is unlikely to get away, even if they start slowly.

And the Red Sox aren't conceding that'll be the case.

"As long as I've been here, the front office and ownership usually always put us in a real good situation to go out and succeed," Buchholz said. "Everybody's looking forward to getting started."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.