Welcome to BP Boston’s second annual Roster Recap series. Over the next few months, we’ll be analyzing every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of their top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the Red Sox roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. From MVP-candidate right fielders to reserve relievers, we want to give you a look at every Red Sox who might matter in 2017. View the complete list of Roster Recaps here. Enjoy!
Steven Wright’s 2016 played out not unlike a knuckleballer’s best-day-turned-bad, inexplicable goodness followed by a stroke of bad luck, always on the horizon, that ended his season. He looked like the team’s best pitcher through two months, this on a squad featuring the most expensive hurler of all-time and the eventual Cy Young Award winner, and was celebrated as a revelation. Nonetheless, the Sox have added another shiny rotation piece entering this season, which could push Wright out of the rotation for good. But should it? Let’s take a look back and see.
What went right in 2016
The first half. Before the All-Star break, Wright was 10-5 with a 2.68 ERA. Over the same stretch, Rick Porcello was 11-2 with a 3.66 ERA and David Price was 9-6 with a 4.34 ERA. With his flat-brimmed cap and everyday countenance, he seemed like the everyday hero helping the Sox through a tough time, and for it, he rightly earned an All-Star appearance. Which is crazy! From now until the end of time, he’ll have that “All-Star” banner on Baseball-Reference.com thanks to one blistering, inexplicably great half of baseball. And it was great. Remember this?
Humans were not meant to try to hit this @Knucklepuck23 knuckler: https://t.co/aaZrxHyTe4 pic.twitter.com/3X3wk84PTN
— Cut4 (@Cut4) May 30, 2016
What went wrong in 2016
In early August, Wright pinch-ran against the Los Angeles Dodgers and suffered a shoulder injury that derailed his season. After the game, he told Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald: “It feels all right, it’s just inflamed right now. It’s a little sore when I get to certain spots when I lift up my arm. Hopefully in a couple of days I’ll be able to start throwing and hopefully make my next start.” He’d only make two more for the rest of the season before going back on the DL for aggravating the same injury.
What to expect in 2017
That’s the question, isn’t it? Wright is one of three people fighting for two rotation spots — the other two are Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez, and there are compelling arguments both to put Wright in the Opening Day rotation and to hold him back as a super-reliever, ready to step into the rotation at the first sign of trouble. In all likelihood, this is a “six of one, half-a-dozen of the other” arrangement, and Wright will be starting sooner rather than later, either out of necessity or by design. Can he repeat last year’s performance when he does? It’s foolish to predict how the knuckleball will dance — but we’ll have our dancing shoes on just in case.
Photo by Peter Aiken/USA Today Sports Images