The Red Sox rotation appears set before their bullpen does, which is surprising given how many health questions developed with the starters over the course of the spring.
Kyle Kendrick, a minor league free agent signed over the winter, was reassigned on Tuesday -- cut from big league camp and sent to Triple-A Pawtucket. That doesn’t mean he can’t make the Red Sox if something goes wrong with Drew Pomeranz (or anyone else) between now and the regular season.
But it’s a clear suggestion that the Red Sox have enough confidence in Pomeranz’s health that they see Kendrick beginning the year at Pawtucket.
“Any time you have something invasive, you're always kind of taking a wait-and-see approach,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida about Pomeranz. “I even mentioned to Dave [Dombrowski], I said, 'When's he getting through this,' I said, 'let's not even pay attention to the first three starts. Because he's going to go through some things where he's going to build up. He's going to probably get over some mental hurdles of wondering how's it going to feel, can I turn it loose? The delivery's going to have to be in sync like every other pitcher in spring training.'
“And you know what? The last couple innings in start 3, it started to click a little bit more regularly for him. No pitcher's ever completely out of the woods, just based on the position, but you know what, he's making satisfactory steps toward the first start of the year.”
Kendrick might have to wait a little bit, but he should be the first man up if the Red Sox need a starting pitcher for more than, say, one spot start. He's to hang around the big league team at least through Thursday, when he has a start against the Nationals, his seventh spring start.
A 32-year-old righty who would make $1 million in a full season in the big leagues, Kendrick scrapped his four-seam heavy approach this year and is going back to the sinker-ball ways that made him successful in his time with the Phillies. He’s had throwing shoulder issues in the past, but has said all spring he’s healthy. That showed with 26 strikeouts and a 2.17 ERA in 29 Grapefruit League innings.
He'll be around soon enough if he keeps it up at Triple-A Pawtucket.
The tricky thing with Kendrick is that once he’s on the big league roster, he can’t be sent back down to the minors without passing through waivers, meaning the Red Sox would risk losing him.
So, if it’s just one spot start that’s needed, a guy like lefty Brian Johnson, who has options and is already on the 40-man roster, probably gets the nod over Kendrick. But any injury that leaves more of an unknown in recovery time, and Kendrick should have his crack.
Outfielder and first baseman Steve Selsky was optioned after Monday’s game. Add in Kendrick’s cut on Tuesday and the Sox have 36 technically remaining in big league camp, 31 from the 40-man roster.