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Danny Picard: Red Sox have major decisions to make with their pitching rotation

It's still up in the air as to when Eduardo Rodriguez will return to the Red Sox' rotGetty Images

I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. While Eduardo Rodriguez was expected to return to the Red Sox rotation by the end of this month, the 23-year-old lefty has suffered another setback.

Rodriguez has been dealing with a right knee injury since the beginning of spring training. On the road to full recovery, he was scheduled to make his fifth rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket this week. That is no longer the planafter Rodriguez recently admitted to having some pain in that same knee.

Combined with the news that reliever Carson Smith could possibly be placed back on the DL with the same forearm/elbow injury he suffered in spring training, the Red Sox have some serious decisions to make.

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Ok, now for the good news. If there’s anyone who you should want making those decisions, it’s president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

We’ve already gone over the fact that he has the intestinal fortitude to make the bold moves. You don’t have to look any further than the blockbuster trade for closer Craig Kimbrel and the signing of their ace David Price.

But even after those additions this past winter, there was still an incomplete feeling. There was something missing.

It wasn’t the offense. Entering this weekend’s series against Cleveland, the Red Sox have scored the most runs in all of Major League Baseball with 240. Six of their everyday starters are hitting at least .300. Heck, who would have thought that, in the middle of May, Jackie Bradley Jr. would be hitting .338 with seven home runs and an OPS of .997?

I was never concerned about the Red Sox’ offenseentering the season. But this? This group is relentless. And I truly believe the sample size is large enough where it cannot be considered a fluke.

So the decisions Dombrowski will have to make between now and the non-waiver trade deadline on Aug. 1 will undoubtedly have to do with the pitching staff. And more specifically, the starting rotation.

Over the last month-and-a-half, I’ve told you about Rodriguez’ potential to be a stud. He’s a power arm who can dial it up to the mid-90’s and get you swinging and missing his hard changeup that equals the fastball velocity of some highly-touted young pitchers in the organization. When healthy, he can be the team’s No. 2 starter. No question about it.

But now that we don’t know when he’ll be healthy, a hole is left in the Red Sox’ rotation. And I’m not asking for that hole to be filled by Joe Kelly, Henry Owens, Sean O’Sullivan, or anyone else the team has on their list of candidates.

None of those pitchers have the potential to be the 1A to Price’s ace status. And moving forward, if the Red Sox want to be serious contenders, that’s exactly the type of dominant starter they’ll need.

So the bad news is thatit doesn’t look like Rodriguez will be healthy enough to be that guy. The good news is, Dombrowski is the right man for the job to go find that guy.

And if you were wondering how some of the big-money, disappointing contracts — Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo — will affect the way Dombrowski handles business at the trade deadline, well, don’t.

Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said on my podcast last week that those contracts won’t prevent them from adding a player who’s either under a big contract or is due for a big deal in the winter.

“Yes, contracts do impact your overall budget and your ability to spend,” said Kennedy. “But, I can say with certainty, there is not a concern for the 2016 Red Sox, or ’17 Red Sox that we are limited or are going to be hamstrung by any one individual move.

“There’s a willingness to do what it takes to be competitive in the American League East and in all of Major League Baseball.”

Right now, with the most wins in the division and the second-most wins in all of baseball, the Red Sox are indeed competitive.

In order to be a championship-caliber ball club, they’ll need some great news coming out of Dombrowski’s office before Aug. 1.

Listen to “The Danny Picard Show” every weekday at dannypicard.com & on iTunes. Danny can also be heard weekends on WEEI 93.7 FM. Follow him on Twitter @DannyPicard.

 
 
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