Red Sox History: Individual pitching problems of the past


Boston Red Sox fans should be happy for what they have on the mound despite occasional failures. Here are a few pitchers that just drove me to seclusion when a game was on.

The Boston Red Sox are on a record pace for wins in a regular season yet issues still surface. Craig Kimbrel suddenly issues a series of walks that put all on edge expecting disaster to strike and it occasionally does.  Joe Kelly’s magic of April and May goes into hibernation and Joe is just an ordinary Joe. An injury-riddled Drew Pomeranz gets lit up by batters and social media. Heath Hembree melts down against the dreaded Yankees.

Baseball has a nasty way of even having the greatest of players look ordinary at times or make bonehead plays that would even make a Little League player embarrassed. There were times in recent history where Red Sox Nation was exposed to some baseball mound ineptness that makes any of the current players look like Hall of Fame material even when they go sour.

Here are a few of my “favorites” pulled from my memory bank.

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The best thing about Heathcliff Slocumb is the Red Sox managed to get Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe in a trade with Seattle for him. Was he really that bad? Slocumb did have 48 saves for the Red Sox, but a 6.2 BB/9 puts any wildness by the 2018 staff to shame.

Having a 1.9 K/9 in 94 innings gives you an idea of pitching to contact and that means righty Aaron Cook of the 2012 Red Sox. The contact resulted in a 5.65 ERA in 18 starts, but there was one piece of magic left in Cook’s right arm – a shutout in Seattle. Think Rick Porcello’s 86 pitch outing was a gem? Cook tossed only 81 pitches. Cook was once an All-Star winning 16 games for the Rockies, but for the Red Sox, Cook was cooked.

The Red Sox needed bullpen depth in 2007 and unlike 2018 they found a top of the line bullpen artist in right-handed Eric Gagne. Gagne had 16 saves and a 2.16 ERA for the Rangers when Boston picked him up via trade., but Gagne did nothing but boost defibrillator sales in Red Sox Nation.

Gagne finished 2-0 with a 6.75 ERA, but his 3.03 FIP may tell another story or does it?  Gagne allowed 26 hits in 18.2 innings. He managed to have zero saves but did have three blown saves. Gagne, however, did get his ring.

Bobby Jenks looked like a Dick Radatz clone with his size, but the one-time outstanding closer had nothing when he pitched for the Red Sox in 2011. Jenks walked 13 in just 15.2 innings and had a pair of blown saves before being released in early July.

The 1999 Red Sox staff had Pedro Martinez winning the Cy Young Award and a second place finish as Most Valuable Player.  To balance out the staff they had veteran righty Mark Portugal. Portugal made 27 starts for the Red Sox and tossed 150.1 innings as the number five starter.  Portugal also allowed 28 home runs and Pedro allowed just nine dingers in 213.1 innings to put Portugal’s accomplishment in proper context.

Left-Hander Steve Avery was once part of a great Braves staff, but that was in the rearview mirror when Avery came to Boston in 1997. In two seasons Avery actually had a winning record (16-14), but then came a statistical warning sign – a 4.6 BB/9 versus a 4.4 K/9. Avery made 41 starts for the Red Sox with a dismal 5.64 ERA/5.48 FIP.

The first time I saw submarine style righty Byung-Hyun Kim I thought I was watching women’s softball until I realized the women threw harder. Kim was a dual disaster meaning he would start or relieve and make you grasp your worry beads. The Red Sox traded Shea Hillenbrand to Arizona for Kim and Kim’s first season (2003) in Boston was productive (8-5, 3.18), but then came 2004.

Was he that bad? Probably not, but I saw several games in Pawtucket in 2004 and Kim was a disaster.  Some may have been the result of an ankle injury the previous season, but with the PawSox, Kim had a 5.34 ERA.  Called up to Boston in September, Kim did nothing and was left off the playoff roster.

Righty Julian Tavarez played for what seemed like every team in the majors during his 17-year career. Tavarez is on my list for both his pitching and his behavior including a ten game beginning of the season suspension for a spring training brawl.

Tavarez split his time between the bullpen and the rotation with an occasional stellar performance, but they were few and far between as a starter. In 2007 Tavarez made 23 starts (6-11, 5.22) and did get his ring despite being omitted from the playoff roster.

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Tavarez would often wear cleats with a picture of David Ortiz on them, was quite affable with fans, eventually admitted to not being able to read or write. Tavarez’ early life was brutally hard and he would occasionally reflect on it.