It turns out, one start was enough.
Elias was blitzed for seven runs on seven hits and three walks in only four innings of an 8-4 loss to the Mariners, the Red Sox's ninth defeat in 14 games this month, and he was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket before the door to the home clubhouse at Fenway Park was locked for the night.
And now, the Sox will turn back to embattled right-hander Clay Buchholz to fill the final spot in the starting rotation. Three weeks after being banished to the bullpen, Buchholz will start Wednesday night against the Chicago White Sox.
"That's the approach we're going to take," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Hopefully [Buchholz] continues to build on the three innings he pitched [Thursday] night, which might be the most crisp he's thrown so far."
Buchholz's fall has been precipitous. He was the Red Sox's Opening Day starter last season and their projected No. 2 starter behind David Price this year. But he yielded 59 hits, including 12 homers, in 56 2/3 innings with a 6.35 ERA over 10 starts before being removed from the starting rotation.
Elias, who left Fenway Park without speaking to reporters, put the Red Sox in a 2-0 hole after only three pitches, giving up a single to Mariners leadoff man Ketel Marte and Franklin Gutierrez's two-run homer. Gutierrez launched a solo shot against Elias in the third inning and a three-run double in the fourth to give Seattle a 6-0 lead.
The Red Sox have used six pitchers in the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation -- Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly, Sean O'Sullivan, Henry Owens and Elias -- and they have combined for a 7.18 ERA. So the Sox will cast their lonely eyes back to Buchholz in search of some stability.
"We didn't anticipate the number of guys we've gone through for 65-plus games, wherever we're at right now," Farrell said. "We'll continue to search."
Reserve outfielder Rusney Castillo also was optioned to Triple-A, having gotten only four at-bats (0-for-4) since being recalled June 1. Farrell said the club would announce corresponding roster moves Saturday.