Oft-injured starting pitcher Chris Sale is back on the injured list for the Red Sox, this time with inflammation in his left shoulder. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

First impressions mean a lot. Many fans, distracted by the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals, this past week was their first true look at the 2023 Boston Red Sox.

Few people like what they saw.

The home crowd booed the Red Sox mercilessly on Sunday afternoon after watching one of the sloppiest performances of the season. There were errors, misplays and mental lapses in the 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay. By all metrics, the Sox have been one of the worst defensive teams in baseball this season.

“In the end it’s on me,” said Manager Alex Cora after the game. “I’m the manager of this club and we’ve been sloppy. It’s not about pointing fingers, right? The roster is the roster and we have to play better baseball. But I’m the manager of this team and defensively we’re not good. We’re not.”

Cora, who prided himself on being a fundamentally sound player, was clearly frustrated by the fundamental mistakes being made by his team on the field. Yet all six runs scored by the Rays were earned, meaning his pitching staff didn’t help out much.

Tanner Houck walked four batters in the game Sunday. Three of them scored. He has shown he has the stuff to be a major league starter but has yet to put it together consistently.


That matters more than ever. Oft-injured Chris Sale is back on the injured list, awaiting further testing to find out just how badly his pitching shoulder is injured. Shoulder problems have not been a recurring issue for Sale, but injuries have been. Sale is shut down after throwing 59 innings this season, more than he had thrown in the last two seasons combined.

It’s his first shoulder injury since 2018, and he said this one does not seem as bad as the one he dealt with then. He recovered in time to join the team that season and record the final out of the World Series.

Now the Red Sox, who finally seemed to have a rotation that was taking shape, are once again left filling in the gaps. And hoping their other starters, who all dealt with injuries last season, can stay healthy.

They’ll also have to figure out who will take Sale’s spot in the rotation. Cora said on Sunday that Kutter Crawford will likely be first in line. He gave up one run in three innings of work in Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader.

It’s a clear indication they don’t believe Nick Pivetta or Corey Kluber, both recently removed from the rotation, are ready to take on starting duties again.

There isn’t much help on the horizon. The Worcester Red Sox have the sixth-highest ERA in the International League. It’s been the highest of any team in the league over the last two weeks. The next starter isn’t coming from the farm. It will have to come from outside the organization or from one of the options within.


Speaking of pitchers outside the organization, could the timing have been any worse for Major League Baseball to name former Red Sox starters Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Wacha as AL and NL Pitchers of the Month last Friday? The news was dropped just as the Sox were placing Sale on the injured list. And as the search for pitching help became more important.

And former Boston pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez has a 2.13 ERA in 11 starts with the Tigers, the second-best ERA in the American League.

Many of the preseason concerns surrounding the Red Sox have come home to roost. Sloppy defense. Inconsistent pitching. Not enough depth. The Monday afternoon make-up game against the Rays marked the 60th game of the season. There’s a lot of time to overcome the early mistakes this team has made. And a lot of mistakes to overcome.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. He is a graduate of Lewiston High School.

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