John Tomase

Whitlock's future, Verdugo's present and other Red Sox thoughts

The Red Sox left Toronto with a sweep of the Blue Jays -- and a few lingering questions.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Three thoughts from a three-game sweep in Toronto over the weekend that should send the Red Sox home with some momentum for six games against the best and worst of the AL West, but instead leaves them with even more questions:

1. Maybe Garrett Whitlock isn't meant to start

In the interests of consistency, I liked the idea of moving Whitlock to the rotation, where his arsenal played, and where the Red Sox could conceivably get 175-200 innings of productivity out of him as opposed to 60 or 70 in relief.

But with Whitlock leaving Sunday's start after just one inning because of elbow tightness ... which comes just two months after shutting down with nerve irritation in that same elbow ... which comes not even a year after hip surgery ended his 2022 in August ... which comes four years after Tommy John surgery in the Yankees organization made him available in the Rule 5 draft in the first place ... there's a lot of evidence that Whitlock isn't built to last.

Whitlock's only stretch of uninterrupted health came exclusively in relief during his 2021 debut while being carefully managed by Alex Cora and the medical staff. Whitlock made 46 appearances and threw 73.1 innings, pitching on back-to-back days only once and generally pitching twice a week. Cora featured him as a multi-inning weapon to the tune of a 1.96 ERA that earned Whitlock a team-friendly $18.75 million contract extension.

That deal represented a fair contract for a reliever and an absolute steal for a starter, but in an attempt to maximize his value, the Red Sox ultimately may have done Whitlock a disservice. We still don't know the severity of his latest injury, but when a pitcher who has already undergone Tommy John complains of elbow tightness, it's not alarmist to fear the worst.

2. Alex Verdugo should be an All-Star

The knee-jerk reaction to the Red Sox only earning one All-Star (closer Kenley Jansen) is that it's all they deserve, seeing as they've spent most of the season in last place in the American League East.

Their 43-42 record actually puts them middle of the pack in the AL, though, at eighth overall, and so in that context, a second All-Star would be defensible.

With all due respect to Masataka Yoshida, that man should be Verdugo, who may yet be added as an injury replacement. It's fitting that on the day he was snubbed, Verdugo blasted a game-winning homer in the ninth to complete Sunday's sweep of the Blue Jays.

He has easily been the team's best all-around player as part of what might be baseball's most underrated outfield. He put his skills on display over the weekend, winning Sunday's game with his bat one day after cutting down the tying run at the plate for the final out of a 7-6 victory.

Verdugo is the only plus defender in the starting lineup, and he's hitting for everything except power. Send this man to Seattle.

3. Here come the Rangers

The Red Sox have had a strange habit of losing to mediocre teams and beating good ones, with the Jays being the latest example. They get their sternest test in weeks starting Tuesday vs. the Rangers, who own the second-best record in the AL (behind only the rampaging Rays) on the strength of baseball's best offense.

When last we paid attention to Texas, general manager Jon Daniels was losing his job for overseeing a spending spree that yielded only 68 wins last year. The centerpieces of that plan -- second baseman Marcus Semien and shortstop Corey Seager -- are now the club's two best players.

Every single regular in the Rangers lineup owns an OPS of at least .800, including castoffs like right fielder Adolis Garcia (a team-leading 20 home runs), and catcher Jonah Heim (56 RBIs), as well as rookie third baseman Josh Jung. All five of them will be at the All-Star Game, alongside old friend Nathan Eovaldi.

Speaking of Eovaldi, he tried to return to the Red Sox, but they pulled their offer after he attempted to find something better on the market. He signed with Texas for only two years and $34 million and has delivered a 10-3 record and 2.64 ERA while leading the AL in innings.

Given Whitlock's situation, not to mention another injury to Chris Sale, the ineffectiveness of Corey Kluber, and the freak liner to the face that sidelined Tanner Houck, and the Red Sox could sure use Eovaldi right now.

At least when the Rangers leave, the woeful A's come to town. After a weird seven-game winning streak in early June, Oakland has reverted to form, losing 13 of 17 while packing for Vegas.

Contact Us