Red Sox finally getting healthy, and not a moment too soon

·3 min read

Aug. 15—Don't look now, but the Red Sox are finally starting to get healthy.

Michael Wacha made his long awaited return Sunday after spending more than a month and a half on the injured list, and more reinforcements might not be far behind. Kiké Hernández and Trevor Story are both expected to travel with the Red Sox on this week's road trip to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, Tyler Danish, Rob Refsnyder and Brayan Bello are all back on the field doing rehab assignments and even James Paxton is reaching the point where a big league return may not be out of the question.

Factor in Rich Hill and Matt Barnes' recent returns and the Red Sox are playing with close to their full deck for the first time since June.

The cavalry can't come soon enough for a team that has taken one hit after another throughout the summer, and despite everything that's happened the Red Sox are still only a couple of games out of the playoffs and may only be one strong week away from jumping back into the AL Wild Card picture.

Wacha's return is huge. When healthy the tall righty has been arguably Boston's best starting pitcher this season, and with his dominant performance on Sunday he is now 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA. Even with Chris Sale now out for the year with a broken wrist, a starting rotation led by Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta and Wacha will still play, especially if impressive rookies Kutter Crawford and Josh Winckowski can keep it up.

Offensively and defensively, Hernández and Story should provide a similar boost.

Hernández, who hasn't played since June 7 with a right hip flexor strain, is Boston's best defensive outfielder and a top of the order difference maker that the Red Sox have badly missed. He has spent the past few days rehabbing with the Portland Sea Dogs and if all goes well may be able to return at some point in the coming days.

Story, recovering from a broken wrist suffered after getting hit by a pitch on July 12, may need a little more time than that, but he is still expected to start taking batting practice in Pittsburgh, an important step forward in his recovery.

Bullpen-wise Barnes has already made a huge impact since his return, which the club badly needed with Tanner Houck going down with lower back pain. Danish will provide some crucial depth, Matt Strahm (left wrist contusion) an impact lefty to complement Austin Davis, and if Paxton is able to successfully return from Tommy John surgery in September, there's no telling what kind of impact he could have.

The road from here on out won't get any easier. After a brief respite against a struggling Pittsburgh Pirates team the Red Sox jump right back into the AL East crucible with a huge road series against Baltimore this weekend. After that it's Toronto and Tampa Bay at home and the AL Central-contending Minnesota Twins on the road to finish out August, which means the Red Sox will once again have to fight tooth and nail to survive, but if they can they should have ample opportunity to gain ground.

Everything is still right there for the taking, and for the first time in a while the Red Sox have what they need to compete.

Email: mcerullo@northofboston.com. Twitter: @MacCerullo.