Red Sox Nation, and baseball for that matter, got their first glimpse of one of the two knuckleballers left in the game in 2013. That knuckleballer was Steven Wright. Wright was acquired from the Cleveland Indians in July 2012 for Lars Anderson.
After a season ending injury to former All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan, Wright was called up to make his big league debut. But, he wasn’t used out of the bullpen. In fact, he wasn’t used at all. Wright later made his debut on April 23rd, 2013. He came in relief of struggling starter Alfredo Aceves. Wright allowed 5 runs in 3 2/3 innings to the Athletics in his first appearance and was optioned back to AAA Pawtucket after the game.
Wright broke camp with Boston this season as a bullpen arm and a was perceived to be the long man for the team. But, following an injury to struggling starter Justin Masterson, The Red Sox had Steven Wright start in his place. In six appearances, including four starts, Wright logged 33 2/3 innings with a 4.01 ERA.
In seven starts this season so far, Masterson is 2-2 with an ERA that is close to 6.50. In his latest rehab start with Double-A Portland, Masterson gave up eight hits and two runs in 4 2/3 innings. The Red Sox had been using a six-man rotation recently, but despite the recent success of the 6 starters, manager John Farrell stated today that Steven Wright would move back to the bullpen instead of streaky starter Joe Kelly.
Many felt that with the arrival of Eduardo Rodriguez that it would be Kelly who would go to the bullpen over the steady Steven Wright. But, the flame-throwing Kelly, along with management, had other ideas. Kelly went on a hot streak. In four of his last five starts, Kelly has gone at least 5 innings giving up 2 earned runs or less. The right hander is mostly known for his fastball, but is also known to have control issues, prompting most to think that he could thrive in a bullpen environment.
The Red Sox went to a six man rotation because they had 20 games without an off day and didn’t want their starters to feel fatigued. With an off day scheduled for Monday, the Sox will go back to a 5-man rotation. That rotation will include Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Joe Kelly.
Masterson is eligible to come off of the disabled list as of now, but Boston wants him to make another start in Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday. But what happens when Masterson comes off of the disabled list? Will he go in the bullpen as well? Farrell has recently stated that it is yet to be determined if Masterson will come back in a a relief role. If not, it looks like Kelly is the next candidate to go to the bullpen. But, how could you send Kelly there? When a pitcher shows more than a couple of flashes of dominance, as Kelly has more than once, it seems like you’d just be wasting their talents in the bullpen. This division is still anyone’s, and with the Sox five and a half back, sticking with good starting pitching , not experiments and charity cases, would be an extreme help for this team.