For a righty pitcher, having an inflamed shoulder muscle attached to your throwing arm is obviously painful. It’s what has kept Boston Red Sox starter Justin Masterson on the 15-day disabled list. The only thing more painful, possibly, has been some of the displays of pitching that have gone on in his absence for Boston. Not that it was incredible with him on the mound, either, before the injury.
Masterson made his fourth rehab start for the Pawtucket Red Sox, last night. He threw 6.0 innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits, three walks, and four strikeouts against the Charlotte Knights.
Christopher Smith of MassLive.com reported, “Masterson threw 89 pitches, 54 for strikes (61 percent strikes). His third rehab start, which also was against Charlotte, came last Wednesday. He pitched 6.0 innings, allowing just one run (it was earned) on two hits and one walk while striking out six. It should be interesting to see whether Masterson returns to the Red Sox as a starter or reliever.”
Smith’s question is likely based on Masterson’s performance with the big club, this season.
The 6-foot-6, 260-pound, 30-year-old veteran has a record of just 2-2, with a 6.37 ERA in seven starts. He has thrown 35.1 innings, which adds up to just over five innings per start; that’s not much, considering Red Sox manager John Farrell likes for his starters to outlast the opponent’s pitcher. Opposing batters are hitting .286 against Masterson, walking almost as many times as striking out (19 to 24). There isn’t even much difference of which side of the plate a hitter swings from, as Masterson has provided almost equal opportunity, allowing a .300 batting average for lefties and .260 for righties.
Boston paid $9.5 million for one season of Masterson’s services, in the off-season, in an attempt to patch the problems with the starting rotation. So far, the results have been less than stellar.
Masterson was an All-Star in 2013, leading the league with three shutouts, using 195 strikeouts to help the cause for his former team the Cleveland Indians. Now, we have reporters asking whether he could find his way onto the roster in the bullpen. A step back, perhaps? Will he find a home in middle relief, helping to get the club to a place where Koji Uehara can lock games down for the victory in the ninth inning?
The fact is, Masterson was not shutting out Triple-A bats. He was able to keep the damage to very minimal levels. Will that translate to the same levels in the big leagues? It could happen; it could be an ill omen.
Maybe the injury was holding him back from performing at optimal levels. That might explain why Masterson was getting hit hard. According to FanGraphs.com, Masterson has had over 81% of his pitches that were hit graded either medium or hard. Apparently, no easy groundballs for the defence, even when they do occur. Over 13% of the flyballs that he allows end up leaving over the fence. For someone brought in to be a groundball pitcher, Masterson will need to keep the ball lower, not missing fat high in the strikezone, whether he is a starter or not.
At this point, Red Sox Nation has seen it well-documented how inconsistent the starting pitching and the relievers have been. One start, a pitcher is being praised for turning his season around, and then, in the next start, he is shunned for hemorrhaging so many hits and runs, everywhere. The fans likely wouldn’t mind seeing if Masterson can come turn things around, as long as he stays in that direction. The U-turns are making everyone queasy.
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