Starting Rotation Struggling Mightily for Red Sox

After a very impressive first time through the rotation, Boston’s starters have failed to replicate that success the second and third times through the order.

Rick Porcello was the latest Sox starter to struggle, allowing eight earned runs on 12 hits and three walks over five innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park. Porcello gave up a home run to Orioles’ center fielder Adam Jones in the top of the first, and another to second baseman Ryan Flaherty in the top of the second. Known for his ability to induce ground balls, Porcello has already given up three home runs on the season, and in three starts owns a 1-2 record with a 6.63 ERA.

Clay Buchholz, who many expected to lead the staff this season, looked impressive when he threw seven scoreless innings on Opening Day against the Philadelphia Phillies.

However, he showed more of the inconsistency that has plagued him throughout his career in his second start, allowing nine earned runs on nine hits and two walks, in just 3 1/3 innings, against the New York Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball. In three starts, Buchholz has a 6.06 ERA after giving up 12 earned runs on 23 hits in 16 1/3 innings.

When the Red Sox traded prospects Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for left-hander Wade Miley back in December, they hoped he would be able to step in and replace Jon Lester, who left Boston to sign with the Cubs as a free-agent. In two starts this season, Miley has lasted just 7 1/3 innings, allowing nine earned runs on nine hits and five walks, good for a 10.57 ERA.

Boston also hoped Justin Masterson would be able to brush off a down year in 2014, and return to the effective pitcher he once was after being traded by the Red Sox to the Cleveland Indians in 2009. Masterson has a 1-0 record, but his command has looked off at times, giving up nine earned runs on 11 hits and five walks in just 10.2 innings.

The only Red Sox starter with an ERA under 6.00 is Joe Kelly, whom the Red Sox acquired along with Allen Craig, from the St. Louis Cardinals, in exchange for John Lackey, at last season’s trade deadline. Kelly is 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA in two starts, allowing three earned runs on five hits and four walks over 12 2/3 innings.

There was a great deal of speculation during the off-season about whether or not the Red Sox would trade for a true ace before the season began, and it appears that they will need to do just that if they plan to make a serious push in the American League East.

Boston is rumored to have interest in both Cole Hamels of the Phillies and Johnny Cueto of the Reds, but after a season ending injury to catcher Christian Vazquez, many wonder what kind of deal they will be able to make without including top catching prospect, Blake Swihart.

The Red Sox also have three top left-handed pitching prospects in Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez, but it remains to be seen if either one of the three will be ready to make contributions at the big league level this season. Boston may elect to use one, or multiple, as trade chips, or they may decide to wait it out and see what kind of pitchers they amount to before selling the farm.

Either way, the Red Sox rotation needs some help if they plan to stay competitive in 2015.

Forrest Mulheron is a Boston Red Sox/MLB Correspondent for Baseball Essential

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