The Red Sox did nothing to bolster the pitching staff this winter and now it’s biting them

When your most competitive pitch of the afternoon comes from the 9-year-old son of a franchise icon, that means your home opener belongs in the compost bin.

Such was the case Friday at Fenway Park, where youngster Lee Vaughn threw a fastball high into Kevin Plawecki’s glove as part of the ceremonial first pitch alongside his father, Mo. It turned out to be the last highlight of the day for a Red Sox staff we’ve long feared could end up sporting the “besieged” modifier.

The nightmare scenario for this season is that the Red Sox just don’t pitch. They could hit a ton and land OK, but there are probably better World Series slogans than “Eovaldi and Whitlock and pass the hemlock.”

Red Sox vs Twins takeaway: Pivetta clubbed as Boston drops home opener

Friday’s home opener ended early and hinted at a potentially long summer after an 8-4 loss to the Twins. Starter Nick Pivetta lasted just two innings, allowing Miguel Sano a one-home run and four runs. This is your #2 starter.

A parade of relievers followed and one of them had to give up, in this case Hirokazu Sawamura, who allowed two hits and two runs in two innings, with the damage coming from an eye-seeing beyond the field interior shot and a Xander Bogaerts dive. Later, Matt Barnes canceled out a mini-return by allowing two runs in the ninth.

While it’s fair to criticize the offense on a day when it offered little beyond a solo homer from Alex Verdugo, a few more hits from Jackie Bradley Jr. and a late homer from Rafael Devers, in the ‘together, the Red Sox go the short score. It’s not a long term problem.

The pitching staff, on the other hand? Phew.

Chaim Bloom and baseball operations have done nothing to address the peak of their rotation this offseason, unless you’re going to let left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez walk in free agency.

They assumed a full and healthy season from southpaw Chris Sale, and it’s not a second assumption to say they should have had a plan B. Sale broke a rib throwing a pitch during the lock -out and will be sidelined until at least June. At best, he comes back to make a difference. What’s worse is that it’s a sunk cost of $145 million. Gun to the head, I make this last bet.

Replacements Michael Wacha and Rich Hill each pitched pretty well, all things considered, in their respective debuts, but they’re short-term fixes for a reason. The veteran Bloom acquired with the highest potential, rehabilitating southpaw James Paxton, could end up being Ramon Martinez for all we know, a perpetual source of promise instead of results. And it’s hardly guaranteed to contribute anything in 2022.

Beyond Eovaldi and Whitlock, it’s hard to feel good with any staff pitcher. Third starter Tanner Houck throws around the strike zone. Wacha hasn’t posted an ERA below 5.00 since 2019. Hill is crafty and feisty, but he’s 42 and likely good for 20 starts.

The bullpen beyond Whitlock and possibly southpaw Matt Strahm depends on the day. Hansel Robles threw well, but may have a heart attack with his command. Ryan Brasier is still trying to regain his velocity. Barnes has yet to throw with a lead and on Friday he barely found the plate. Jake Diekman looked great in New York, then missed in Detroit. And so on.

This is what happens when a crying need is not met. The Red Sox have prioritized fixing their rotation over a more permanent solution. The Mariners signed 2021 American Cy Young League winner Robbie Ray for five years and $115 million. The Blue Jays replaced him with right-handed All-Star Kevin Gausman for five years and $110 million. The Cubs added Marcus Stroman. The Giants nabbed Carlos Rodon.

There were guns available, and the Red Sox continued to hunt minnows rather than throw tuna. When Friday’s loss ended with a strikeout by Bobby Dalbec, the 36,000 people in attendance let out a small murmur and then silently marched towards the exits.

My fear is that this Red Sox pitching staff is sure there are a lot more where it came from this summer.