Franklin Morales was used primarily out of the bullpen this past season, but new Red Sox manager John Farrell told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe today that the current plan is for him to come into spring training as starting pitcher.
Morales had a 3.77 ERA and 76/30 K/BB ratio in 76 1/3 innings with the Red Sox this year before coming down with shoulder fatigue in late August. The 26-year-old southpaw enjoyed some success during a small sample in the starting rotation, posting a 4.14 ERA and 47/19 K/BB ratio in 45 2/3 innings over nine starts. Once considered one of the top pitching prospects in the game, it was his first stint as a starting pitcher since 2009 as a member of the Rockies.
As of now, the Red Sox have three locks for their rotation next season with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront. John Lackey is coming off Tommy John surgery, but he should be in there too if he can avoid setbacks. The Red Sox would probably prefer to keep Morales in the bullpen, especially considering that he wore down toward the end of the season, so plans could change if they add a starting pitcher this offseason.
The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.