When Eduardo Nunez pitches a better inning than Brian Johnson, is it time to panic?

Nunez, remember, is an infielder. There’s no greater white flag in Major League Baseball than the position player taking the mound. Nunez pitched the eighth inning for the Boston Red Sox on Friday night in Arizona. By that time, the Diamondbacks had pulverized the Red Sox actual pitchers into powder. Starter Rick Porcello allowed seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. Brian Johnson coughed up seven earned runs in 1 1/3 innings.

Johnson appears to be taking up a roster spot only because he has shown occasional promise and, out of options, the Red Sox can’t park him in AAA Pawtucket like a left-handed Rusney Castillo.

Remember Castillo? He’s making close to $12 million to play out his contract in Pawtucket. He hasn’t seen the big leagues since a nine-game blip in 2016. He’s that expensive takeout you order, then shove to the back of the fridge when it turns out to not be very good. Where you forget about it while it rots.

I wonder if Castillo can pitch? The Sox may need to save Nunez’s arm for the late-summer stretch run.

Friday’s 15-8 loss to the Diamondbacks dropped the Red Sox to 2-7. The teams played again late Saturday night. Not the start a defending World Series champion coming off the most dominant season in team history would expect.

A slow start coming off a World Series win is nothing new for the Red Sox. In the season following each of the last three championships, 2005, 2008 and 2014, Boston went 4-5 through the first nine games. Over the course of a 162-game season, every team hits turbulence. It looks more pronounced when it’s right out of the gate, like this, and it looks more pronounced coming off a 108-win season in which the team cruised through three playoff series.

It looks more pronounced when Nunez is the one peering in to get the sign from catcher Blake Swihart.

The Red Sox’s team earned run average is a robust 7.18 heading into Saturday. Surprisingly, that’s not the worst in the league. It’s almost the worst, 28th of 30, so keep up the good work, Diamondbacks and Cubs.

The Red Sox are hitting, sort of. They were shut out in back-to-back games in Oakland. Even so, Boston is eighth in the league in runs scored. That’s something to consider when you wonder how long this funk can possibly last.

The starting pitching has to turn around, right? Chris Sale pitched well in a loss at Oakland despite having none of his usual velocity. Sale will gradually ramp it up and be throwing fastballs past hitters come summer, right? David Price will be good David Price, the David Price who pitched Game 5 of the World Series last October. Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez will find the strike zone and there will be a 10-game win streak and we’ll all laugh at the panic and malaise the first couple weeks of the season brought.

“Remember when Eduardo Nunez pitched in Arizona and we all rocked ourselves to sleep? Ha ha ha! What a fuss over nothing! Say, how would you like your steak cooked?”

It could be worse. It could always be worse. The key players are all healthy, although the lack of zip on Sale’s fastball is something to consider. Not worrisome yet, but something to consider. JD Martinez is hitting, and Mookie Betts is starting to. The Red Sox have a hot streak in them just waiting to burst out. Maybe it will when they get back to Fenway Park next week after this 11-game road trip.

Long road trips are the worst. Especially at the start of the season. The Red Sox went from Florida to Arizona for a couple exhibition games against the Cubs, then to Seattle, Oakland, and back to Arizona. Be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until they start sleeping in their own beds, when they are greeted each morning by their families.

If Nunez pitches again, though, blow it all up.

Travis Lazarczyk —861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

 

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