Around the Horn is a weekly column from Chris Mason, where the Eagle-Tribune beat writer offers nine thoughts from the Red Sox clubhouse.
This week's installment focuses on a make-or-break series with the Indians and another one-step-forward-one-step-back weekend.
1. Cashner sent to the 'pen
Dave Dombrowski absolutely nailed the Nate Eovaldi trade last July, but this year's rotational upgrade has been anything but.
Andrew Cashner couldn't get out of the second inning on Sunday — he walked five Angels — and fell to 1-4 with an 8.01 ERA since joining the Red Sox.
With a schedule that's beginning to lighten up with off days, Cora decided he'd seen enough from Cashner. He plucked the veteran from the starting rotation.
"Cashner is going to be in the bullpen, starting (Tuesday)," Cora told reporters in Cleveland. "I talked to him today. He understands. He knows where we’re at, and with the off-days and everything that is going on and he hasn’t pitched the way he pitched the last five or six with Baltimore. We’re going to put him in the bullpen and velocity-wise, you saw it, 95, 96 (mph), so I told him, 'Hey man, you still can contribute. You can still help us out.' He told me he’ll be ready.
“It's what’s best to make a run. We do believe we can do it, we do believe we can have a run but we have to do it in a different way. It just so happens that the schedule plays into our favor now and we can be creative with the rotation.”
2. Rick gets rocked
Rick Porcello is also still struggling to find any rhythm. He's given up 42 earned runs in his last 10 starts, opponents are hitting .304 against him over that span, and his ERA sits at 5.67 for the season.
"I don’t think there’s any doubt over the course of my career I’ve been battle tested with some tough stretches," Porcello said. "To me this is no different, this is lasting a lot longer than I’d like, but the fight and confidence I have is not going to go away regardless of what happens. I believe in myself I believe in our team. Going out there every fifth day to try to prove that. Get knocked down a bunch. Last year was a dream season. This year getting punched in the face every fifth day."
3. But AC sticks with Rick
Still, Cora won't be giving Porcello the Cashner treatment just yet.
“No, no," Cora said. "I do feel that although the results are not there, and obviously you see the whole season and the numbers and all that, he’s made some strides actually the last two games and a half as far as the direction and the stuff, he gave up that home run the other day but we do feel that we’ll be fine with him. We can’t put everybody in the bullpen, so we’ll stay where we are.”
4. Real test for Sale
Chris Sale is one Sox starter that actually looked sharp in the last turn.
He dazzled against the Angels, throwing eight innings of two-hit ball and striking out 13, but now the real challenge looms. Can Sale replicate that success tonight against an Indians team the Sox are chasing in the standings?
"You never want to say you figured it out, but it's a step in the right direction," Sale said. "I hope to be able to keep doing what I'm doing, because obviously we've got an uphill battle, but we still think we've got a shot, and we're all still fighting in here.
5. Nate hasn't been the answer
Exaclty one month ago, Dombrowski said, "We won’t need our ‘pen as much. We are going to add Nathan Eovaldi. For some reason, people seem to, not, like, grasp on to that. He’s a big addition for us coming."
Billed as a bullpen savior, Eovaldi hasn't been yet.
The flamethrower allowed runs in five of his first nine appearances, and Alex Cora has yet to really task him with high-leverage situations.
6. Exceptional run for Taylor
One reliever that has been terrific is Josh Taylor.
The lefty came into Monday night's game with a 1.83 ERA since July 1, striking out 25 batters in 19 1/3 innings. He's not quite Ryan Brasier of 2018, but Taylor's out-of-nowhere emergence has him in that same conversation.
7. Schedule's out!
Boston's 2020 schedule was released on Monday afternoon, and they'll begin the season March 26 in Toronto, while the home opener will be April 2 against the White Sox.
Other highlights include a trip to Wrigley Field, Boston's third ever, and they'll play the Orioles in the Little League Classic at Bowman Field in Williamsport, PA, on August 23.
8. Chavis to the IL
Michael Chavis hit the injured list for the first time as a big leaguer thanks to a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder.
The rookie is trying to take it in stride, hoping to use the time on the shelf to refresh.
"It's kind of the funny thing," he told reporters in Cleveland. "When you get away from something, it gives you a chance to maybe clear your mind to reset a little bit. I'm a positive person, so trying to find the positive through all of this, that's one of the things I'm looking forward to."
9. Blake Swihart DFA'd
The Diamondbacks parted ways with Blake Swihart yesterday, designating the former Red Sox catcher for assignment.
Swihart struggled to stay healthy in Arizona, an oblique injury landed him on the 60-day IL, and he hit just .136 in 31 games for fellow old friend Torey Lovullo.