In 2013 lefthander Craig Breslow was a key part of the Red Sox run to a World Series title. He was someone Manager John Farrell came to rely on down the stretch as a shutdown guy posting a 0.65 second half ERA (1.81 for the season). Breslow’s struggles since then (5.96. ERA last season, 3.98 this season) have forced Farrell to find another reliable lefty in high leverage situations to pick up the slack. Tommy Layne has stepped into that role for the Red Sox since his acquisition before the 2014 season.
Layne started his career without high expectations since he was taken in the 26th round of the 2007 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of the University of Central Missouri. Early in his professional career, Layne worked extensively as a starter. He started to show promise at High A in 2009, posting a 2.86 ERA over 66 innings in 29 games including four starts. Layne spent two years at AA without great distinction in the Diamondbacks organization. At the age of 26, he was still in AA. A 2.55 ERA there in 2011, earned him a promotion to AAA but his 6.21 ERA over 26 starts might have had Layne questioning how much further his career was going to progress.
In 2012, Layne was purchased by the San Diego Padres, where he showed enough progress to the Padres to promote him to majors. It is hard to see what they saw in him, as his playing record shows a 6.37 ERA in 77.2 innings that season. He must have had good splits against lefties because the club brought him up to the majors where he excelled. Layne managed to record two saves along with a 3.24 ERA, striking out 25 batters in just 16.2 innings. Left-handed batters were just three for 36 against the slinging portsider in 2012.
In 2013, Layne was back in AAA for the Padres, not pitching startlingly well. He posted a 4.50 ERA in 46 innings, though he struck out 41 in that span. The Padres saw fit to take another look at him in September of 2013. Once again, Layne performed well for the major league club, posting a 2.08 ERA in 8.2 innings, striking out six batters. At the end of the season, the Padres decided to part ways with Layne despite his stellar performance for them in the majors.
The Red Sox signed Layne just five days after his release from San Diego on November 10, 2013. Once again, it is likely the Red Sox did not expect a lot from Layne considering the Padres did not want to keep him. After Breslow’s stellar 2013, Layne may have wondered if he would be getting a shot to contribute much for the Red Sox in the majors. This minor league season was perhaps the best of Layne’s career. He dominated, posting a 1.50 ERA over 48 innings, striking out 53 batters in that span while recording 11 saves.
In July, Layne made his first appearance with the club, with a scoreless two-thirds of an inning, but he did not stick until August. He pitched well the rest of the season in the majors, posting a 0.95 ERA allowing just two runs in 19 innings. In 26 plate appearances in high leverage situations, Layne allowed just a .487 batter OPS. Slowly, he was gaining Manager John Farrell’s confidence.
The 2015 Season
When 2015 started, Layne left Florida with the major league club. In April, still having minor league options, he was briefly sent back to the minors. He spent only 10 days in AAA Pawtucket this time, twirling five scoreless innings, allowing two hits and recording six strikeouts. He did not get off to the best start in April, allowing a 5.79 ERA, albeit in just 4.2 innings.
May was a much better month for Layne, allowing just a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings, striking out nine batters. In June, Layne struggled, mostly at the hand of the high-powered Toronto Blue Jays who scored four runs in just 3.2 innings against him. Overall, Layne’s ERA is 9.82 against Toronto and 2.13 against the rest of the league. July has been a return to success for Layne, notching five scoreless appearances.
Though the team is just 13-23 in his appearances this year, he has pitched well in high leverage situations in which the game is in the balance. Batters are just three for 27 against him in those spots. Where Layne needs improvement is with two outs and runners in scoring position. Batters are six for 19 against him in those situations with a 1.066 OPS. It is a small sample size, but if Layne is going to come in to shut down an opponent’s rally, those numbers need to improve. Perhaps John Farrell should use him in more situations exclusively against lefties. In 62 plate appearances (PA), he has allowed just a .455 OPS vs. lefties, but in 65 PA against righties, that number jumps to .929.
Layne’s ERA for the season now stands at 3.10. Considering the general lack of success of the bullpen this season, and the unlikelihood of Red Sox contention for 2015, the 30 year old lefty should see many more opportunities to prove himself. Since Layne is still a year away from arbitration after this season, the Red Sox will definitely hold on to him as an effective low-cost performer whose success they can utilize in more winning games next season.
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