Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Bug Named Injury

Anytime you can include Heimlich in a blog, you do it.

Before Monday night's game against Baltimore, the Red Sox announced that the struggling John Lackey would be placed on the 15-day Disabled List with a strained right elbow. That night, Daisuke Matsuzaka was on the mound and had your typical Dice-K start, throwing 106 pitches in just 4.1 IP, walking seven batters and striking out just two. After that start, the team placed Matsuzaka on the 15-day DL with his own elbow issues. With that move, the Red Sox are now without their 4th and 5th starters. So, the question is, who will come in to replace them.

With these moves, the Red Sox have called up Scott Atchison and Michael Bowden to fill the voided roster spots. Atchison has started one game for the Red Sox in 2010, but it is his only career start, so he probably won't be one of the guys to take the spot. Bowden is a young player who has been pitching very well out of the 'pen in Pawtucket. He has made a couple of starts in Boston, one in 2008 and the other in '09. He pitched okay in the first, and terribly in the second, and will likely not be on the team for very long. The Red Sox expect Dan Wheeler to be back on this team very soon, and Bowden is likely the odd man out when that happens.

The first replacement in the starting rotation is somewhat obvious to me. Tim Wakefield has been the spot starter all year, and he deserves the chance to hold on to that role. Wake has started two games thus far in 2011, and pitched well in the first, and horribly in the second. (Also, that second game as against Minnesota, the worst offense in baseball). He should be given a couple more starts to prove that he doesn't belong before he is given the oust.

As for that final spot, there are a few players in the mix. One guy who I would like to see is Felix Doubront. He inexplicably started the year as a long reliever, even though the team already had Wakefield and Aceves to take that role. However, he has since been sent down to Pawtucket to be stretched out for a starting role. He is still in the stretching out process, averaging a little over four innings per start. However, in that time, he has been pitching very well. Thus far, he has posted a 1.98 ERA to go along with a 1.02 WHIP. He has an impressive 18/5 K/BB ratio, and is averaging over 11 Ks per nine innings. Of course, these numbers are over an incredibly small sample size, but he showed last season that he can give the team some solid spot starts, and I believe he is the logical choice to fill in that 5th starters spot. 

Another guy who will get a look is offseason acquisition Andrew Miller. Once a top prospect in Florida, he has been pitching well in Pawtucket so far in 2011. He has posted a 2.35 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in seven starts at AAA this year. He also has not pitched long into games, averaging five innings per start. 

There is also the possibility of signing Armando Gallaraga, who has just been released by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Most remember him for getting his perfect game taken away from him by a terrible call in the 9th last season. He has a solid arm, but has not been able to put it together yet. I think this is something the Sox should look into, but more of a long-term project. Give him a few starts in the minors and determine if he can help the team out. He should not be in contention for a starting spot right now.

We aren't sure how long the Red Sox struggling, overpaid 4th and 5th starters will be out. But until Lackey and Dice-K return, the team should be turning to Tim Wakefield and Felix Doubront to give the team spot starts until they come back.

P.S. My brother pointed out that I should probably mention Alfredo Aceves. He should be kept in the long relief position in case either of these guys struggle and need bullpen help early in the game.   

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