Justin Masterson has made two starts for the Red Sox through the first seven games of their Grapefruit League slate and, with five shutout innings under his belt, is looking more like the Masterson of old than the Masterson of his dreadful 2014 season.
Coming off arguably the best season of his major league career in 2013, Masterson’s 2014 season was a complete and total disappointment. He posted a miserable 5.51 ERA in 19 starts for the Indians, walking 5.1 batters per nine innings, before they unloaded him onto the Cardinals, where he was even worse. In 9 games (6 starts) in St. Louis, Masterson’s ERA spiked to 7.04 and he finished the season with a 5.88 ERA in his contract year.
After such a horrendous 2014 season, it didn’t inspire too much hope when the Red Sox signed Masterson to a 1 year/$9.5M pact this December. Even when considering that Masterson suffered from a nagging knee injury for much of the season, he was not guaranteed to bounce back with the Red Sox, and $9.5M is no small commitment.
However, in the early stages of spring training, it appears that Boston’s faith could be rewarded. Masterson is coming off a dominant outing against the Rays yesterday, in which he struck out four batters over three perfect innings.
Finally feeling confident and pain-free, Masterson has commented on his health, as well as adding some words on yesterday’s start.
"I feel a lot better. I feel more flexible, I’m getting more rotation and things are going better. I just wasn’t in a good spot last year, and I was trying to battle real hard through some stuff. This year, I’m much better, but I’m still working and still fighting.I was able to throw strikes and be in the zone. Just continued progress of where we’ve been. I was able to repeat my delivery for the most part and throw the ball over the plate."
A healthy and productive Masterson, a pitcher who has logged 200 innings twice and is the owner of a spectacular 56.6% ground ball rate in his career, would be a huge boost to the Red Sox rotation. And while he may have never been a truly elite pitcher, Masterson has the upside to be a solid number two starter and perhaps even a borderline number one. The Red Sox rotation has been heavily criticized for its lack of an ace, but with some health and maybe a little luck, Masterson could be that guy in Boston.