Ryan Weber finally made his big break in the majors last week, making his first career Opening Day roster as he became the Red Sox’ No. 3 starter to begin the season.
But it’s been all downhill from there for the 28-year-old right-hander.
Weber was poor out of the gates, surrendering six runs to a bad Orioles team in his first start last Sunday, and he wasn’t much better in his second chance, tossing up two home runs in another forgettable outing in Friday night’s 5-1 loss to the Yankees.
So, could that be the end of Weber’s brief spell as a starter with the Red Sox this year? Not so fast. Ron Roenicke has been Weber’s biggest supporter since he took over as manager in spring training, and when asked after Friday’s game if he would reconsider Weber’s spot in the rotation, he was firm in his response.
“Not really,” Roenicke said. “I mean, who do we have that we can say that we’re going to put in that’s going to be better than Ryan?”
That’s the reality of the situation for the Red Sox. They simply just don’t have any other options.
Behind Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez, it’s been patchwork to start the season. Zack Godley will make his first start Saturday, and the Red Sox will be praying he has the same success he had in his debut last week.
Roenicke said there’s a plan for Sunday, but a starter hasn’t been announced. And the question marks keep compounding with Eduardo Rodriguez being shut down for the season after complications from COVID-19, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom announced Saturday.
So, for now, Weber has his spot secure. And there’s a ton of improvement to be made. The righty’s numbers to start the season are ugly — seven innings, 10 hits, nine earned runs, seven walks and no strikeouts. The walks especially bothered him after he issued four of them on Friday.
“It’s frustrating,” Weber said. “Throughout my entire career, I’ve always thrown strikes, stayed ahead. I’m just trying to be too fine. … I’ve never even thought about walking that many guys in a two-week span, let alone a four-inning span and it’s just not my game, it’s not how I pitch.
“I’m used to staying ahead, getting that first-pitch strike over, not getting picky around the strike zone, trying to throw to corners but not trying to front door, back door pitches to corners and consistently missing, it’s a little mechanical issue that hopefully I can work out between now and my next one in the bullpen.”
It’s especially frustrating for him because he looked better to start Friday. After missing and hanging his pitches last Sunday, his trademark sinker was staying down as he induced three ground-ball outs in the first. But then he started getting behind in counts, and a pair of bad pitches to Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela resulted in home runs that were ultimately enough for the Yankees.
Weber has not made it through the fifth inning in either of his first two starts, just going 3⅓ on Friday, as his pitch count has quickly gone way up with 74.
“In spring training I felt good, I didn’t walk anyone and now I’ve walked seven guys in seven innings,” Weber said. “I want to show them that I attack the strike zone, I throw strikes, I get ahead, I can get quick outs and I can go deep into a ballgame, but as of now, I’ve made it into the fourth inning and the pitch count is getting up. That’s the main problem. Walking guys, the pitch count gets up and you’re out there, you’re throwing a lot of pitches and getting tired and that’s when the damage happens.
“Then things start to speed up on you out there because you’re not throwing strikes, you’re not part of my game and then I’m trying to maybe reach a little extra instead of staying within myself. That’s the key to my game, pitching my game and I haven’t been doing that.”
Roenicke, of course, still believes in him. The manager said the key for Weber is going to be for him to continue to trust his stuff, which obviously isn’t as advanced as most pitchers in baseball.
“Confidence is going to be huge for him,” Roenicke said. “We saw that in the first spring training and in the shorter one. Confidence, because he’s such a command guy, is how he’s going to be successful. A guy who throws 98 mph, even if he doesn’t have confidence, the stuff gets him by. With Ryan, the stuff won’t get by unless he’s confident and throws it where he wants to.”