Posted on August 26, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine

Boston Red Sox Steven Wright

Image via bostonherald.com

The Boston Red Sox are currently locked in a tight, three-team race atop the AL West, but it appears the team’s pitching staff is starting to return to full health just in time for the September stretch run. That return to health will begin Friday night when knuckleballer Steven Wright makes his return to the starting rotation after three weeks away with a shoulder injury. Wright has been activated and will be on the mound when the Red Sox begin a series against the Kansas City Royals.

Wright hurt his shoulder while on the base paths while acting as a pinch runner for David Ortiz on August 7. Wright threw a bullpen earlier this week, sitting down and getting back up multiple times to simulate game conditions, and he is considered ready to return to the rotation full time. After his most recent throwing session, Wright admitted that his shoulder does have some soreness, but that he doesn’t feel it while he’s on the mound.

Wright had a rough month of July, posting a 6.23 ERA over six starts, but on the season he has the lowest ERA of any Red Sox starting pitcher at 3.01. Perhaps more importantly, Wright was on top of his game his last time out, throwing a 3-hit shutout against the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 5. Unfortunately, after the long layoff, there’s no guarantee that success will continue moving forward.

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“It was so long ago there really is no momentum,” Wright said about his last start. “Usually you try and use that momentum for your next start, five days later. But that momentum has kind of come and gone. So for me it’s just going out there and not thinking about that last outing because it’s one of those things where it’s not affecting me good or bad. I just have to concentrate on throwing strike one and taking it pitch by pitch.”

In addition to Wright, the Red Sox are expecting lefty Eduardo Rodriguez to return to the rotation on Sunday after his last start was skipped due to a sore hamstring. After a simulated game earlier this week, Rodriguez, like Wright, appears ready to rejoin the rotation full time.

With Wright and Rodriguez coming back, the Red Sox will be able to shift Clay Buchholz back to the bullpen. Buchholz made starts the last three times through the rotation, and actually had some of his best outings of the season. The Red Sox are hopeful that Buchholz can bring that same effectiveness to the bullpen heading down the stretch despite 2016 being one of the worst seasons of his career.

Following a string of injuries, the Boston pitching staff seems to finally be returning to full health, at least as healthy as they’re going to get this season. As of Friday, the Red Sox are tied with the Toronto Blue Jays atop the AL East, with the Baltimore Orioles just a game back. It seems likely that the division will remain that tight until the end of the season. For Boston, the return of Wright and Rodriguez and a healthy pitching staff could be what puts them over the top in such a competitive division.

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