PAWTUCKET â€“ For much of Thursday, the Red Sox were tight-lipped as far as naming a starting pitcher for Saturdayâ€™s game against Tampa Bay.
To borrow from the well-known fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, a trail of breadcrumbs was left around McCoy Stadium on Thursday afternoon prior to Pawtucket wrapping up its four-game series with Gwinnett. The breadcrumbs may have not formed a path that led directly to the locker room of the intended PawSox pitcher who will take Clay Buchholzâ€™ spot, though their mere metaphorical presence did help to shed some light on the matter.
Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo were all seen as viable candidates because they are all on the 40-man roster. De La Rosa was initially slated to start for the PawSox on Thursday night against the Braves but he was scratched with Jeremy Kehrt getting the nod.
â€śWeâ€™re pushing him a back a couple of days,â€ť said PawSox manager Kevin Boles about De La Rosa.
When asked if the decision to pull back De La Rosa was done with an eye toward Bostonâ€™s need for a starter on Saturday, Boles answered, â€śI have nothing to report. Iâ€™m just saying that weâ€™re pushing him back.â€ť
Why the Sox are pushing De La Rosa back became clear after Bostonâ€™s walk-off win over Atlanta Thursday night, as manager John Farrell announced that the hard-throwing right-hander would face the Rays.
De La Rosa seemed to be in good spirits as he shuffled about the clubhouse before and after the game. Unlike the rest of his PawSox teammates, he did not have an equipment bag packed and resting on the floor outside his locker.
Saturday will mark De La Rosaâ€™s first big-league start since July 31, 2011 when he was still property of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He appeared in 11 games with the Red Sox last season, all in a relief capacity.
The 25-year-old De La Rosa has made 10 starts to date for the PawSox, posting a 2-3 record with a 3.04 ERA. Heâ€™s struck out 52 in 53.1 innings while holding opponents to a .218 batting average.
The numbers he posted in April were mighty impressive â€“ 2.28 ERA and .163 batting average. In five starts this month, De La Rosa has allowed more hits (27) than innings pitched (25.2) with International League foes connecting at a better clip (.267).
You could make the case that the 24-year-old Ranaudo has been Pawtucketâ€™s best starter lately, having allowed just one earned run in his past three starts, spanning 19.1 innings. Given that Ranaudo was originally set to make his next start on Saturday, it originally seemed a safe bet to tab him as Buchholzâ€™ replacement.
Things appeared to be breaking in Ranaudoâ€™s favor when Steven Wright told a reporter that his next start would take place Saturday in Norfolk. Wright is on a rehab assignment and has been working out plus receiving treatment in Pawtucket all week after making a start for Double-A Portland on Monday.
There was some debate as to whether Wright would re-join the Sea Dogs in Trenton this weekend. Since he was present in the PawSox clubhouse on Thursday, logic would dictate that he would accompany the Triple-A ballclub on its upcoming eight-game, two-city road trip.
Getting back to Ranaudo, he clarified matters by saying that he was simply getting pushed back a day. He will now start Sunday against the Tides, who are managed by former PawSox skipper Ron Johnson.
â€śCertainly stuff like that goes through your mind, but all I can focus on is that I have the ball Sunday in Norfolk. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m preparing for,â€ť said Ranaudo, who has yet to pitch in the majors. â€śI feel that a lot of people have helped me prepare for this situation when somebodyâ€™s turn in the rotation is up. Until someone tells me different, Iâ€™m still here.â€ť
Webster (2-2 on the season with a 3.17 ERA) will still get the ball for Fridayâ€™s road trip opener. Unlike the turn of events that unfolded Thursday, that of a highly-touted pitcher skipped in favor of saving him for a much bigger assignment, those best-laid plans involving Webster remain very much in play.
â€śAll three of them have had success. We definitely like their stuff and they all have shown signs of having pretty good command of the strike zone,â€ť said Boles about the aforementioned trio of in-house starting pitching candidates. â€śAll three have really put themselves on the map.â€ť
Added Ranaudo, â€śWe have a lot of great starters here and whoever it will hopefully go up and do well.â€ť
Turns out that â€śwhoeverâ€ť is De La Rosa.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03