Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

OH NO, THE SKY IS FALLING

What an adventure for the Red Sox bullpen this weekend.

Rudy Seanez's three walks in the ninth on Sunday were a disaster in the making, and when Julian Tavarez walked in two runs later that inning it was the sad culmination of their combined ineptitude. Many of us had never seen anything quite like it. Neither pitcher could throw strikes.

The Red Sox bullpen has proven itself to be thin and quite suspect. Neither the starting rotation or the bullpen has the depth of a playoff team, much less a World Series Champion. They will be a busy team at the deadline.

Though the Sox swept the D-Rays in four straight over the weekend, and sit atop the AL East with a 30-19 record, there's still reason for concern.

With ten pitchers on the staff, the team can only rely on four -- Schilling, Beckett, Timlin, and Papelbon -- and Timlin is on the DL.

Timlin landed on the DL with a "tired arm," and at the age of 40 that's worrisome. After all, it's still only May. Keith Foulke is a roll of the dice each time he takes the mound. There's been no consistency in any of his performances.

At this point, the Red Sox are in the unfortunate position of relying on David Wells, and his ability to return to his former self. That's a lot to ask of an overweight 43-year-old with a bad knee. As of now, Terry Francona says there are no plans to put Wells back on the DL, where he's already spent 43 days due that surgically repaired right knee. At the least, Wells will miss his next scheduled start tomorrow, and the team has yet to announce who will take his spot.

Sure, the Sox could turn to Lenny DiNardo, Jon Lester, or even Craig Hansen, but the major consideration is that none of them has yet proven himself to be an effective big league pitcher. In fact, DiNardo has shown himself to be mostly ineffective. As for filling out the unreliable bullpen, Manny Delcarmen and Jermaine Van Buren will see action, but neither of them has proven himself a reliable big league reliever as of yet either.

With Papelbon's success as the closer, combined with the fact that he loves the role and says he doesn't even think about starting anymore, the Sox are attempting to covert Hansen to a starter.

Hansen made his third start of the season Saturday for Triple A Pawtucket, allowing only one hit and no runs over four innings, walking four and striking out three while lowering his ERA to 2.29. In his three starts he's 0-1 with a 1.54 ERA.

The organization is being very careful with his pitch counts and the number of innings he works. The plan is to move him along slowly since he's not used to pitching extended innings. He may be needed in Boston before the year is over, and they don't want him to have a tired arm.

In the meantime, the Sox are going to need some outside help, and where they've begun their search isn't encouraging. Word is they've been scouting the Minnesota's Kyle Lohse, who was recently demoted to Triple A after being totally ineffective for the Twins this season. Before being sent down, Lohse had compiled a record of 2-4, to go along with a frightening 8.92 ERA. In 38-1/3 innings, Lohse had surrendered an appalling 57 hits for 38 earned runs. He'd managed just 24 strikeouts, to go along with 19 walks, and opponents were batting .420 against him.

However, for what its worth, Lohse has pitched very well against minor league hitters since the demotion. The Sox were looking at him last year in deadline trade talks.

So it would appear that the Sox had better have a good contingency plan. As always, every competitive team will be seeking pitching help in the coming months, and there's only so much talent to go around. And what is available will likely be free agents that will cost the highest bidder some valuable prospects. There will be no shortage of suitors for Dontrelle Willis, Barry Zito, and Jason Schmidt, should they be available. Kelvim Escobar's name has even been mentioned, though it's difficult to imagine what would provoke a big market, big money team to part with such an outstanding young talent. The Angels are having an off year, but the club has been competitive the past few years and is only three seasons removed from a World Series Championship.

Because of the cost in young talent that any trade will result in, the free agent signing of Roger Clemens is all the more appealing to both the Sox and Yankees. That puts Clemens squarely in the driver's seat, and he'll get whatever he wants. The Sox will have to wait and see. We should know of Clemens' decision in a week or so, but the odds are he'll stay in Houston.

In the meantime, the Sox can only hope that Wells has a remarkable recovery, and that Matt Clement discovers something deep inside that even he isn't aware he possesses right now.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

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