It’s a common belief in major league baseball that teams spend the first third of the season figuring out who they are and what they need, the second third addressing those needs, and the final third of the season putting together a stretch drive and a playoff run.

The Boston Red Sox will play their 54th game of the season Thursday in Baltimore. That’s one-third of the way through the season, the perfect time to take a good, long look at what this team needs going forward if it wants to play deep into October.

Offensively, the Red Sox have been a juggernaut. They lead the American League in virtually every scoring category. It’s an incredibly deep lineup with six players driving in more than 25 runs already this season. That’s the most of any team in the majors.

That sort of depth means the Sox don’t have to do a lot to improve the lineup going forward. They’ve been able to survive without Pablo Sandoval (season-ending surgery) and Rusney Castillo (demotion to Triple-A). Even the loss of Brock Holt (concussion DL) hasn’t derailed the team’s offensive pace.

If a team’s chances were based on offense alone, the Sox would be a favorite to win it all this fall. But you need pitching if you’re going to play October ball. The Sox entered the season with questions surrounding the starting rotation, and those questions haven’t gone away. The offense has covered up some of those pitching flaws, and the Sox entered the week in first place as a result.

Now it’s time for Red Sox President Dave Dombrowski and General Manager Mike Hazen to address those issues over the next two months.


The biggest challenge will be to add a starting pitcher. The top of the rotation is set with David Price and Rick Porcello pitching well. Steven Wright has baffled hitters since the start of spring training. After that, there are questions remaining.

Clay Buchholz has pitched horribly this season and has been demoted to the bullpen. Eduardo Rodriguez will take his place beginning with Tuesday’s start in Baltimore. E-Rod will be pitching with a knee brace for the first time in the majors, and who knows how deep he can go in these early starts back from injury.

Joe Kelly put together an impressive eight-start run last season, but has been inconsistent through most of his career. Those inconsistencies were highlighted in his two most recent starts, a dominant performance against the Indians and a loss against the Blue Jays.

A middle- to top-of-the-rotation starter would greatly increase Boston’s chances down the stretch and in the fall. It won’t come easy, but Dombrowski has long shown a willingness to trade prospects for players that will help a team in the here and now.

Over the weekend we were reminded that the bullpen can also use some help. The loss of Carson Smith (Tommy John surgery) was especially evident in Saturday’s loss at Toronto. Matt Barnes has helped fill that void, and Buchholz won Sunday in relief. Yet there would seem to be a need for another late-inning option to take the stress of Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara.

Coming into the season, we knew this team would go as far as its pitching would take it. Somewhat surprisingly, it has gone farther than that pitching would indicate. Red Sox pitchers have issued the most walks in the league, and are in the bottom third of the AL with a 4.21 ERA.

The hitting will only cover that up for so long. The pitching will need to improve. And it’s up to Dombrowski to make those improvements in the upcoming weeks. The Sox hit Memorial Day with the best record in the American League. This team has a chance to do something special, and a couple of roster moves could make it happen.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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