It was only game one but we have already seen shades of a shaky Red Sox bullpen that couldn’t contain the opponents offense, leading to a walk-off win for the Tigers. Not only did it cost Bobby V a chance at his first win as the Red Sox manager, it also spoiled one hell of an outing from Jon Lester. A potential trend that is best left unfulfilled.
So what can be done about the lack of depth and effectiveness out of the pen? Well, Aceves closing is a good place to start. Last year he was brilliant as a setup/middle relief arm. He doesn’t do his best work when he inherits runners, a scene that closers encounter far too often. The solution? Move Daniel Bard back to the closing role and Aceves to the rotation, plain and simple (Aaron Cook could be an option to start as well).
I understand the organization wants to see Bard succeed as a starter, but is it worth losing precious games so Bard can transition into a starter? NO! At least for this year Bard should be closing and reassess the situation after this season where he can then have another spring to move into the rotation.
Mark Melancon was, too say the least, shaky in the opener. He lacked control and failed to hit his targets, resulting in crowding the base paths awfully quick. Last year in Houston he was effective as a closer but this spring he struggled and if yesterday was any indication he will need some confidence before he’s ready to take the ball in the ninth. The solution? Leave him as the setup man.
After the aforementioned names, there aren’t many names in the pen that can compete with the other AL East bullpens. Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe does a nice job comparing the Sox situation to the Rays and Yankees.
I’ve said it before; the names Franklin Morales, Matt Albers, Michael Bowden, Scott Atchison, Justin Thomas and Vicente Padilla are not going to get the job done. Padilla is a rehabbing project that has potential but not late in the game with the score tied. Morales can have the lefties despite his high walk ratio and if Andrew Miller can suddenly rebound and be productive, he too can be a lefty specialist.
After that, it’s Albers who has an ERA similar to John Lackey‘s, walks over 4 batters per 9 innings and has yet to prove he can be a consistent arm when needed.
Scott Atchison is a nice, heart felt story about a 36-year old who has bounced the minors for so long and still has the desire to crack the majors. That’s terrific….if Disney is looking for a new baseball movie. Oh wait, that was done with Dennis Quaid.
Michael Bowden has potential, but he better start showing it as he’s out of options and could either be released or traded. And don’t get me started on Justin Thomas. He needs to be in AAA but with so many injuries the Sox didn’t have much choice other than to keep him around.
So what can be done to shore up the Sox bullpen. Mazz reminds us all of what happened in 2003 with the bullpen and how it is eerily similar to this young season. We all know what happened that year.
Trades are an option for Ben Cherington as is Mike Gonzalez who still remains a free-agent. With the trade table being set, Cherington better be prepared to part ways with multiple high-end prospects for any decent reliever and that doesn’t make much sense.
As the games roll on throughout the first month it will be interesting to see how the bullpen fairs. Should yesterday’s performance have set a precedent then fans will become quite impatient by early May, calling for a solution to the bullpen that may be easier said then done. There is always the hope that a young arm from the minors emerges as a budding star, similar to Papelbon in 2005. Isn’t it funny how we continue to revert back to Papelbon, even after he’s long gone.
Topics: Aaron Cook, Andrew Miller, Ben Cherington, Boston Red Sox, Daniel Bard, Detroit Tigers, Franklin Morales, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Justin Thomas, Mark Melancon, Matt Albers, Michael Bowden, Mike Gonzalez, Scott Atchison, Vicente Padilla