Could Aaron Cook Be An Effective Starter With Boston?
By Conor Duffy
Recent cuts have brought the candidates for the final rotation spots down to four pitchers for two roles– those pitchers are Alfredo Aceves, Daniel Bard, Aaron Cook, and Felix Doubront. Of that group, the player with the highest upside might be Aaron Cook. Remember the World Series in 2007 when the Red Sox played against the Rockies. You may remember that the starter of Game 3 of that World Series was Aaron Cook– showing that not long ago he was one of the better starters on a very good team. He was 8-7 with a 4.12 ERA that year and 16-9 with a 3.96 ERA the next year in 2008; however, everything’s been downhill from there for Cook. He was snatched by the Red Sox this offseason for a $1.5 million contract after a career worst 3-10 record and 6.03 ERA.
However, one must remember that for all these years (he debuted in 2002), Cook has pitched and had some success (a 4.53 career ERA) in possibly the best hitter’s park in the majors in Coors Field. Part of his success has been his uncanny ability to keep the ball on the ground. He has thrown his deadly sinker 36% of the time over his professional career– including a whopping 59.8% of the time in 2011. This has helped him to keep a remarkable 57.4% ground ball rate over his career. That could help Cook secure a spot with the Red Sox– as Fenway Park is no place for fly ball pitchers with the Green Monster looming at just 310 feet away and the Pesky Pole at only 302 feet.
Cook is recovering from shoulder injuries which have plagued him the past few seasons. He appears to be healthy as he has had a very good spring so far with a 1.93 ERA in 3 games (2 starts) and has held batters to a .167 batting average so far. Yesterday in a minor league game he tossed five innings against the double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. The question is whether his arm will be ready for the start of the season as his longest outing this spring (yesterday’s game) was only five innings and he only threw 68 pitches. I have not actually had a chance to watch Cook, who is expected to make one more start this spring, but I’ve heard he’s shown good command so far. I have a feeling that Cook will surprise many people if he stays healthy and from the perspective of a fourth or fifth starter with the Red Sox lineup, do we really need him to be great?