BOSTON -- On a day when David Price threw a three-inning simulated game in which his fastball crackled at 93-95 mph, you might think the Boston Red Sox's starting rotation is closer than ever to finally being whole again.
Well, think again.
Steven Wright will have season-ending surgery Monday to repair a chondral defect, or a hole in the cartilage in his left knee. The injury began bothering the knuckleballer in spring training, intensified last Saturday after he gave up five runs in 6 1/3 innings against the Chicago Cubs, and likely contributed in some form to his 8.25 ERA in five starts -- second-highest in the majors among pitchers who have worked at least 20 innings this season.
Pitching depth isn't exactly a strength for the Red Sox, who have gone 10 years since drafting or developing an impact starter. So the club's announcement Thursday that Wright has decided to pursue surgery after getting a second opinion this week might as well have been accompanied by the discordant sound of the sad trombone.
"Very tough," Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters before the finale of a contentious four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. "Anytime you see a guy go down for the remainder of a year, that in and of itself is an unfortunate thing."
But the Red Sox didn't have much time to lament Wright's misfortune. The next man up was already up Thursday night, as veteran right-hander Kyle Kendrick was summoned from Triple-A to make his first big league start since Oct. 2, 2015, for the Colorado Rockies.
Whether or not Kendrick is the answer to occupy Wright's spot, the Red Sox don't have much choice, at least until Price comes back, which figures to be no sooner than Memorial Day. Most teams aren't willing to make a trade this early in the season, and the Red Sox's other Triple-A options -- lefties Henry Owens and Brian Johnson, and right-hander Hector Velazquez -- aren't overly inspiring.
Of course, the Red Sox still have ace Chris Sale, reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, and lefties Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez in a rotation that posted a solid 3.93 ERA entering Thursday night. But Wright was the Red Sox's best pitcher last season until he strained his shoulder diving back into second base as a pinch runner. And his new injury means that when trading season begins, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski might have to consider fortifying the rotation in addition to potentially seeking upgrades at third base and in the bullpen.
It's no wonder Dombrowski sounded so encouraged after watching Price pitch without much restriction in his simulated game.
"I talked to him myself the other day, and he said, 'Dave, I'm good.' He said, 'I feel really good,'" Dombrowski said. "He's throwing the ball like he's good."
If Price continues to feel good once he starts pitching for real, maybe the Red Sox can avoid feeling the true impact of losing Wright.