Red Sox Starter Steven Wright possibly done for the season

Red Sox starter Steven Wright continues to experience pain in his throwing shoulder and will be out indefinitely. Clay Buchholz replaces him in the rotation.

Red Sox Starter Steven Wright has been scratched from Tuesday’s scheduled start in San Diego. Unfortunately, said scratch is likely just the first of many and his availability for the season is in serious jeopardy. In an article written by Mark Chiarelli of MLB.com, Manager John Farrell states that “everything points to” Clay Buchholz taking Wright’s place in the rotation.

Wright has not pitched well in either of his two starts since returning from his 15-day stint on the Disabled List, and there appears to be a very reasonable explanation: Wright is still experiencing pain from the right shoulder injury that necessitated his placement on the Disabled List.

In those two post-DL starts, Wright won zero games while losing one and in 10.0 IP surrendered 14 Hits, 9 ER, 4 HR, 6 BB, while striking out only four batters. For comparison, Wright surrendered only 8 HR in the 146.2 IP prior to his placement on the DL. 

According to Chiarelli, Wright was unable to throw his bullpen session due to the right shoulder inflammation. The knuckleballer will be seeking a second opinion on the injury and it is unclear if another stint on the Disabled List is necessary.

One’s interpretation of this news may be positive or negative. An optimist will be relieved that there exists an explanation for Wright’s poor pitching since coming off the DL. A pessimist will worry that Wright’s injury may result in a truncated season for the knuckleballer.

Wright initially suffered the injury sliding back into the second base bag on August 6 against the Dodgers. Wright was only on the base paths due to Farrell’s decision to insert him as a pinch runner.

Farrell took a lot of heat for that decision; however, I have mixed emotions as to whether the criticism was warranted. A sound thinker understands that the outcome of a decision is irrelevant in classifying a decision as “good” or “poor.” Instead, one needs to consider the risk/reward duality at the time at which the decision occurred.

In other words, driving an automobile while intoxicated is a poor decision. It makes no difference if the drive completed without incident or the driver ended up in handcuffs after attempting to elude police in a high-speed car chase. The outcomes are vastly different but the decision to drive while intoxicated is just as poor in either instance. 

In Farrell’s defense, one would think that a professional athlete could run the bases without sustaining an injury. However, in Farrell’s prosecution, although I do not comprehend the reason, we have seen many pitchers sustain serious injuries while running the bases.

However, people who only criticize without ever offering praise when warranted lose all credibility. Hence, those who criticized Farrell for putting Wright on the base paths where he suffered the injury should be the first to praise his handling of Buchholz’s demotion to the bullpen.

Apparently, Farrell handled said demotion with class and dignity, which could not have been an easy task for a pitcher who spent the greater part of 10 years in the Red Sox Rotation. If Farrell had handled the demotion improperly, he would have destroyed Buchholz’s confidence and Buchholz might have checked out mentally, rendering him worthless to the Red Sox.

At the time, many Red Sox fans were clamoring for Buchholz’s exit from Boston. Few had the foresight to realize that he would be needed to pitch important games later in the season, and even fewer believed that he would pitch well, were that need to arise.

“He’s been invaluable. To his credit, when he moved to the bullpen, he continued to work through some things. The way he’s stepped back into the rotation, he’s been as effective in the last couple of times he’s started for us as any time in his career here in Boston. It comes at a pivotal time. We’re right down in the stretch here.”

On August 14, retroactive to August 8, Wright was placed on the DL and Buchholz’s services as a starting pitcher were needed. Buchholz made three starts in Wright’s absence and performed brilliantly. In those three starts, two of them of the “quality” variety, Buchholz posted a record of 1 win and 0 losses, and a sparkling 2.70 ERA in 16.2 IP. He allowed only 14 hits, while striking out 13 and issuing five free passes.

How does manager John Farrell assess Buchholz’s contributions, both while filling in for Wright previously and likely for the near future? In the article by Chiarelli, Farrell states, “He’s been invaluable. To his credit, when he moved to the bullpen, he continued to work through some things. The way he’s stepped back into the rotation, he’s been as effective in the last couple of times he’s started for us as any time in his career here in Boston. It comes at a pivotal time. We’re right down in the stretch here.”

As for our playoff outlook, if Buchholz pitches as well as he did in Wright’s initial absence, then, in the words immortalized by the great John Fitzgerald Kennedy, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” In other words, I do not believe this changes our playoff outlook one bit.

In fact, as the eternal optimist, a healthy Buchholz pitching every fifth day makes us a much better team than one with an injured Steven Wright pitching on that same schedule. It would not be hyperbole to declare that our playoff chances have increased dramatically with the injured Steven Wright extricated from the rotation.

If Wright were healthy, then I would feel differently; however, the injured Steven Wright of the last two starts was an automatic loss barring a Red Sox offensive explosion. If Buchholz performs as he did in Wright’s initial absence, we are likely to emerge triumphant more times than not.

Aug 23, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, for Steven Wright, Clay Buchholz will likely remain a member of the starting rotation for quite some time, if not the season’s remainder.

I am not a doctor but I play one on the internet and I believe that Wright has a rotator cuff tendon injury. As one who suffered an identical injury but tried to lift and throw through it, the only therapy that enabled it to heal was rest, 2 months of rest.

This season, Wright has thrown nearly 157 innings. In his major league career, excepting this season, he has thrown 107 innings. Last season, Wright tossed 72.2 innings, one year later and a year older Wright’s workload increased by 84 innings. I have to believe that such a massive increase in innings and the associated increased strain on the shoulder joint is responsible for the overuse injury.

The healthy Clay Buchholz who stepped in during Steven Wright’s August hiatus is a major upgrade over the injured Steven Wright and if viewed from that perspective, the Red Sox probability for playoff qualification and success is far greater today than it was yesterday.

This article originally appeared on