Dustin Pedroia's frustration boils over as pitching lets down Red Sox again

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Dustin Pedroia only did what Boston Red Sox fans everywhere wished they could have.

It was the second inning here Monday night, and another Red Sox starting pitcher was getting lit up. This time, it was Eduardo Rodriguez, who allowed five runs in the first inning -- against the woebegone Tampa Bay Rays, no less -- and a two-out infield single to Logan Morrison in the second, compelling pitching coach Carl Willis to come trudging back out to the mound.

And Pedroia, like Howard Beale in the 1976 film "Network," was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore.

After Willis said a few things, Pedroia piped up, television cameras capturing a moment that looked more like a challenge than a pep talk. Amateur lip-readers snapped into action, attempting to parse his words, but the only discernible ones appeared to be the last two: "Let's go!"

Pedroia declined to share after the Sox's 13-7 loss, their third straight defeat and sixth in the past eight games -- "What did I say to Eddie? Do you honestly think I'm going to tell you that?" he said -- but his actual words were immaterial. Boston, 4 1/2 games off the Baltimore Orioles' pace in the American League East, is being dragged down by a rotation that has a 4.82 ERA. The past four games have represented rock bottom, with David Price, Steven Wright, Clay Buchholz and Rodriguez combining to allow 27 earned runs on 37 hits in only 15 innings.

And if it doesn't get better, the season will slip away faster than you can say "Julio Teheran." Or "Sonny Gray." Or any other starting pitcher that Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski would have to empty the farm system to acquire by the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

"I have to remain focused on the guys internally here," said manager John Farrell, who convened a brief postgame team meeting that was serious enough that the clubhouse attendants were asked to step outside. "Whether there's an option that is an upgrade internally, that's one thing. But to say that someone else is going to walk through that door from another organization, I'm not banking on that."

To prove they're not messing around, the Red Sox met with Rodriguez after the game to inform him he was being optioned to Triple-A. They had high hopes for the 25-year-old lefty after he was activated from the disabled list a month ago, but instead he posted an 8.59 ERA in six starts, demonstrating a lack of trust in his off-speed pitches and problems with his mechanics.

Dombrowski said he wasn't ready to announce a corresponding move or to divulge how Rodriguez's spot will be filled. The Sox, who haven't developed a homegrown starting pitcher since Clay Buchholz in 2007, could dig deeper into their depth and call up non-roster right-hander Aaron Wilkerson, who has a 2.20 ERA in Triple-A. Or perhaps Dombrowski will pull off the trade he has said he's not yet prepared to make, even though by his count five teams already have identified themselves as sellers.

Whatever the decision, the results need to get better.

"We're capable of more. We need to get better, and we had a chance to share that here after the game tonight," Farrell said. "We collectively have to get better. To continue to fall behind as much as we are of late, we're more talented than that. We have the capability of executing pitches at a higher rate. We can't continue to expect our offense to climb out of holes, as we've been. We've got to set the tone and lead the way from the mound more than we are."

Yeah, that's probably what Pedroia was talking about.

The Red Sox have been outscored 22-0 in the first innings of their past 15 games after holding a 60-32 edge in their previous 61 games. There's nothing more exhausting than constantly having to play from behind, and it's beginning to take a toll on the position players.

But Pedroia refused to go public with what must be mounting frustration with the pitching staff.

"I was talking to him about baseball," Pedroia said of the mound conference with Rodriguez. "I talk to all my teammates. Every day. That's about it. ... It's baseball, man. That's why you play 162. I remember the first 40 games when we were outscoring them 760 to zero. So, take it easy. That will change. I'll yell at [leadoff man] Mookie [Betts] for not hitting a home run. It's the game, man."

It's about time the Red Sox showed they're mad as hell about their pitching. It's just unclear what they can do about it.