At the start of spring training, he represented perhaps their eighth or ninth starting option at a time when the team was preparing for a widespread talent search for the last two spots in the big league rotation. Daniel Bard, Felix Doubront, Alfredo Aceves, Vicente Padilla, Aaron Cook, Carlos Silva and Andrew Miller were already in the mix for the rotation, with Daisuke Matsuzaka working his way back from Tommy John surgery.
The landscape is now much different. Silva was released early in camp. Bard and Doubront are in the rotation. Aceves, Padilla and Miller are firmly entrenched in the bullpen. Cook and Matsuzaka are both injured.
The net result? Right now, Ohlendorf looks like the top starting depth option in the Red Sox organization, particularly as he gives signs that he is getting better as the season progresses. On Thursday, he was overpowering in six shutout innings. He allowed just three hits (two singles and a double), walked one and struck out a season-high six. It represented the fifth time in nine starts that Ohlendorf has reached his season-high of six innings. His strikeout total was a season high. In his last two starts, he’s allowed two runs in 12 innings (1.50 ERA), striking out 10 and walking three, bringing his season marks for the year to a 4-3 record, 4.07 ERA with 5.9 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.4 walks per nine.
The depleted Red Sox rotation suggests that the Sox can ill afford the loss of a starter who is throwing well in the minors and who has a track record of some big league success, having produced a 3.98 ERA in 50 starts with the Pirates in 2009-10. He looks like he has moved beyond his challenging 2011 season, in which he had an 8.15 ERA in nine starts while dealing with shoulder woes.
Ohlendorf is likely in line for one more start before he has the right to opt out of his contract if not added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster [by June 1]. He does have an option left, so the Sox could keep him stashed in Triple-A if they add him to the 40-man; moreover, that contract status means that the 29-year-old could be brought up for a spot start and then sent back down to the minors.
All of that argues in favor of the Sox adding him to the roster by the time June 1 arrives, particularly given the team’s depleted depth and the recent results shown by Ohlendorf.
Seems like a no-brainer. The only question is how best to create a vacancy on the 40-man. Ross to the 60-day DL? DFA Mauro Gomez? DFA Darnell once Sweeney returns healthy?