Red Sox starting pitchers Nathan Eovaldi, left, and Chris Sale throw during a workout last week in Sarasota, Florida. Associated Press/John Bazemore

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Interviewing Red Sox players over the past two weeks, I would preface my inevitable question about the loss of Mookie Betts with a statement.

“There will come a time where you get to do an interview without being asked a question about Mookie Betts. That time has not yet come.”

It always got a chuckle from the players, who knew the question was coming. Now, with the routine of Grapefruit League games here and Betts over there, we are finally getting to the point where we can talk about this team without talking about the loss of one of the game’s best players.

These are your 2020 Boston Red Sox. For better or worse. And, judging from fans’ reaction to the team’s moves, most of you think things will be worse.

Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, still just months into the job, added fuel to that fire when he said, “I certainly think it’s reasonable to think we’ll be worse without” Betts and David Price.

Many critics took that to mean the Red Sox were throwing in the towel on 2020, that good times at Fenway were years away.


Last week, in a conference call with season ticket holders, Bloom didn’t back away from the statement but he did clarify that while they might be worse without Betts and Price, he strongly believed the Red Sox should be better than the team that won a disappointing 84 games in 2019.

That’s an important distinction to remember. The bar for this team – even without Betts and Price – shouldn’t be what it did last year. It should be what it is capable of doing. And that will rest largely on the health of the team’s starting pitchers.

Fully healthy, this is a rotation that is perilously thin. There are four identified big league-ready starters here in camp and not a plethora of options to round things out. There’s a very real chance the team will regularly use an “opener” in 2020.

We’ve had mixed news on the health of those pitchers. Most importantly, Chris Sale seems to be throwing without any elbow issues and has declared himself on track for Opening Day. Nathan Eovaldi has quietly gone about his business, meaning he’s ready to handle a full workload.

Meantime Eduardo Rodriguez, coming off a fully healthy season that saw him win 19 games, hurt his knee in a fall while throwing a bullpen session last week. No one here in camp seems concerned about it. Yet.

Back in Boston, everything about this rotation concerns fans. Last season’s team had enough offense to return to the playoffs, but with Sale, Price and Eovaldi spending months on the disabled list, the pitching staff couldn’t shoulder the load. Now Price is gone and the others will have to prove they can remain durable in 2020.


The only pitcher not answering questions about his health is Martin Perez, but he spent time on the injured list with elbow issues in 2018.

Before Bloom made a deal with the Dodgers that stunned Red Sox Nation, fans were asking questions about the 2020 starting rotation. Now, with questions about the trade dying down, the questions about that rotation’s health linger.

And those questions will linger until this group can prove it’s healthy enough to stay on the mound in 2020.

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

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.