It wasn’t like Koji Uehara was coming back from his fractured wrist injury this season. The Boston Red Sox moved him to the 60-day disabled list, which made a spot available on the 40-man roster. That spot went to righty pitcher Roman Mendez, as the Red Sox acquired him off waivers from the Texas Rangers.
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The name should be familiar to at least some die-hard Red Sox fans. Mendez was with Boston, signing as an amateur free agent in 2007, before being traded with Chris McGuiness, Michael Thomas, and cash to Texas for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia in 2010. McGuiness ended up bouncing to Cleveland, back to Texas, then to Pittsburgh, and finally to the Philadelphia Phillies, whom ended up releasing him this season. Thomas never left the minors, and as for Saltalamachhia, Red Sox Nation got some good years out of him. Now, after signing with the Miami Marlins in 2013, Salty was released and signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
As for Mendez, it’s been five years since Boston used him for Salty’s services at the dish. Tim Britton of The Providence Journal tweeted the news of his return:
According to Jason Mastrodonato of The Boston Herald, Mendez will make his return to the field slowly: “Mendez is active for the Sox but hasn’t thrown off a mound in 10 days and probably won’t be used out of the bullpen right away.”
The move for both teams is an interesting one.
For Texas, allowing an arm to leave the roster in the midst of a playoff run could be argued as unusual. The Rangers have crawled back into the American League West division race, trailing the Houston Astros by only 1.5 games. Texas, at the moment, owns the second wildcard spot, ahead of the Minnesota Twins by a single game and trail the New York Yankees by 3.5 games for home-field advantage in the one-game wildcard playoff. One would think that Texas would want all the help they could get, at this point.
In 2014, Mendez went 33 innings with eight earned runs on 20 hits, 17 walks, and 22 strikeouts for 2.18 ERA as a reliever. The 25-year-old, however, struggled this season, appearing in 12 games and earning a blown save in one opportunity. He allowed seven runs on 11 hits, seven walks, and nine strikeouts. Opposing batters hit Mendez for a .268 average, a far cry from last year’s .174.
Texas must have given up on him, but not Boston. The Red Sox are hoping that Mendez will be able to pitch more like 2014, as their own bullpen has struggled greatly. The relievers have a combined 4.48 ERA, just behind Texas’ 4.40 ERA, for 26th place in the majors.
Mendez’s performance in the minors, this year, is another reason why the Red Sox see potential. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder from the Dominican Republic went 3-2, with a 2.78 ERA, for the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate. He went 35.2 innings, allowing 11 earned runs on 31 hits, nine walks, and 33 strikeouts. He earned five saves in six opportunities with his strikeout ability, which comes from his pitching arsenal. Mendez’s fastball is clocked at just over 93 mph, according to FanGraphs.com. Mendez also has a cutter, a splitter, a slider, and a changeup, all of which are thrown hard.
With the Rangers adding veteran ace Cole Hamels and Shawn Tolleson establishing himself as the team’s closer, with 31 saves in 33 opportunities, Texas must feel that someone like Mendez was expendable. He wouldn’t be used in the ninth inning, and the starters would last most of the frames. Therefore, even if Mendez would have turned his season around, the Rangers could not afford the experiment during this playoff opportunity. Boston, however, has no realistic aspirations of playoff glory in 2015, and the team is trying to build for next season. This September is the perfect opportunity for the Red Sox to take a chance on Mendez and see if he can re-establish himself as a major league reliever. And, as an asset, Mendez will be around if Boston wants him. He can only seek arbitration about his current contract of $509.5 thousand per year in 2018, with free agency in 2021. A cheap price invested in potential help for the bullpen is not a terrible decision.
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