Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Monday, July 31, 2006

A LOST OPPORTUNITY?

Despite all the hoopla of the last couple of weeks, the trade deadline came and went in a rather anti-climactic way for the Red Sox.

So many names had been mentioned as possibly coming (Lidge, Schmidt, Jones, Soriano, Lugo) and possibly going (Lowell, Loretta, Crisp, Pena, Nixon), and yet with the exception of former Ranger reliever Bryan Corey, the Red Sox roster looks the same today as it did yesterday. Red Sox Nation certainly wasn't expecting Corey -- they were expecting much more.

But the Sox, perhaps rightfully so, kept their eye on the future and refused to part with the foursome of young arms that every potential trade partner wanted -- Papelbon, Lester, Hansen, and Delcarmen. The Sox took the position that these guys are no longer prospects. They are the future, and the future is now.

Clearly, Papelbon is untouchable. But Jon Lester has also made himself invaluable this year with consistent starts that have resulted in a 5-1 record, and a 3.49 ERA. Outside of Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett, Lester is the one sure thing in the Sox rotation at this point. And that's why management may regret not trading for another veteran starter before the deadline passed. The Royals' Mark Redman, for example, would have been a perfect fit in the five spot.

The Sox don't necessarily need a frontline starting pitcher, or another superstar slugger like Andruw Jones or Alfonso Soriano, to make it back to the playoffs. They need consistent pitching from a staff that has been anything but this year. A mid-level veteran would have served their needs just fine.

It's hard to tell how much David Wells has left in the tank. To be fair, considering that this was only his third start of the year, tonight's outing was like another spring training game for him. Wells spent more than 130 days on the DL this season, in three separate stints, and he's had no time to find his rhythm or his groove. And it showed tonight. The large lefty struggled in his no-decision, giving up eight runs and eight hits over just 4 2/3 innings. As it was, Wells entered the game 0-1 with a bloated 8.64 ERA, and his poor performance tonight will hardly improve on that, or earn anyone's confidence.

So what do the Sox find themselves left with after three consistent starters and a 43-year-old question mark? More questions.

Kyle Snyder has been a bit of an enigma this year. Cut loose by the woeful Royals, for whom he'd gone 2-9 over the last three seasons, the 6'8" righty has somewhat pulled it together since coming to the Red Sox. Snyder came on in relief of Wells tonight and pitched brilliantly, firing 4 1/3 innings of one-hit baseball in which he struck out six. He's now 3-2 with the Sox, with a 4.68 ERA, and has struck out 22 batters in 25 innings.

But the question is, which Kyle Snyder will continue to show up down the stretch? If it's the new and improved Kyle Snyder, the Sox are in luck. Having that pitcher in the number four spot would be a blessing. But he's got to prove he pitch more than just five innings at a time.

So who will be the number five starter? That's the million dollar question.

Tim Wakefield is on the DL with a stress fracture to his ribs. Considering how vital a pitcher's ribs are to his delivery, and just how much stress that delivery puts on the ribs, it's anybody's guess how long he'll be out and how fully he'll recover before returning. Wakefield turns 40 on Wednesday, and 40-year-olds aren't the fastest healers.

That leaves the Sox with Matt Clement, who's on the 60-day DL and who's pitched well for exactly one half season since arriving in Boston, as well as two rookies -- David Pauley and Kason Gabbard. Be prepared for the sobering, yet likely, reality that the Sox starting five will be filled out by two rookies down the stretch. I know, a frightening possibility indeed.

Pauley has made three starts, is 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA, and looks quite unprepared for the Bigs right now. In those three starts, Pauley lasted a total of 16 innings and surrendered a total of 31 hits. Obviously, he'd be well served pitching at least another year at the Triple A level before the Sox even consider promoting him.

Gabbard gave a decent account of himself in his lone appearance this season against Seattle. Going 5 1/3 innings, Gabbard gave up eight hits and three runs (two earned), with three Ks and two walks. Hardly overwhelming stuff, but it may warrant another outing. The Sox may not have another option.

And that's the tough part about this trade deadline passing without an addition to the pitching staff. There are so many questions, and so few good answers right now. The Yankees got Corey Liddle and Bobby Abreu for low-level prospects, and you have to wonder if the Sox couldn't have done the same in obtaining a proven veteran pitcher. And that's all they really needed -- no superstar, no ace -- just a quality arm that could fill the four or five spot down the stretch.

Let's just hope the Sox don't look back on this day as a lost opportunity.

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

No comments: