Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A FAILED EXPERIMENT

The fifth starter on most Major League teams isn't very effective. That's a given. But you'd like your fifth starter to at least provide you with a chance to win. After all, the other four starters aren't going to win every time out, so you can't just accept defeat every fifth day knowing that your bottom of the rotation pitcher will unquestionably get smoked.

With that in mind, the Jason Johnson experiment needs to come to an abrupt, and merciful, ending. The Indians knew what the were shedding when they released him last month.

For the second time in a row, Johnson could only get through a mere four innings before being yanked. But before his inglorious exit, the damage had been done. Watching Johnson give up more hits (7) and runs (5) than innings pitched was like watching a rerun of Ground Hog Day. Haven't we seen this film before, and don't we know how it ends? No command, no control (four walks), no win. He even suffered the ignominy of having Carl Crawford steal home on him. It was the speedy outfielder's second steal of the inning. Ugly.

After allowing 11 base runners through just three innings, Johnson reminded everyone why he's lost more than three times as many games as he's won in the first half of this season. The alleged sinker baller, whose ball never sinks, now has an 0-2 record since joining the Sox -- to along with a ghastly 10.13 ERA. In his last 12 outings, Johnson is just 1-10. And overall this season, the troubled righty is 3-10 with a 6.35 ERA.

Someone has got to step up and fill the gaping hole that is the number five spot in the Sox rotation. It certainly won't be Matt Clement -- at least not any time soon.

Clement was shut down after just 17 pitches in a Gulf Coast League game in Fort Myers on Tuesday. While warming up for the second inning, the recovering Clement felt soreness in his right biceps, which is exactly what put him on the disabled list in the first place. It's not likely that anyone feels compelled to have him back in the rotation too soon anyway; so far this season, he's 5-5 with a 6.61 ERA.

Kyle Snyder, the 28-year-old giant, would certainly be an upgrade over the inept Johnson right now, and he comes at essentially no cost.

In his sole outing with the Red Sox last month, Snyder went five innings and gave up three runs. And in two starts with Pawtucket since then, he's thrown 13.1 innings, giving up three runs and 16 hits. Yes, the hit total is high at more than one per inning, but the runners aren't scoring. And with the Sox stellar defense, there's reason to believe that trend would continue.

Right now, the free agent market is thin and no one wants to see the Sox part with any of the young talent in their system -- short of acquiring Dontrelle Willis. And don't count on that happening. You can go ahead and exhale.

Craig Hansen looked dominating last night, striking out the side in the bottom of the eighth. If he continues to mature, and remains consistent with his progress, it's conceivable that the Sox could move Jonathan Papelbon into the rotation. That would be even more likely if the Sox are able to pick up a talented veteran reliever before the trade deadline. Still, it's hard to imagine tinkering with the very best aspect of your bullpen, in the form of the very best (arguably) closer in the game.

Time will soon tell, but, one way or another, the Sox cannot keep throwing Jason Johnson out to the wolves every fifth day. They've been feasting on his ineptitude each and every time, much to the Sox detriment.

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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