In the past week we've witnessed a remarkable display of the Red Sox organizational depth and player development. We've been impressed by he likes of Jed Lowrie and Craig Hansen, while Joe Thurston and David Pauley contributed as well, though less spectacularly. Pauley may make a serviceable fifth starter for some Major League team, though it likely won't be the Red Sox.
And then today we had the Major League debut of Justin Masterson, who certainly opened some eyes with an impressive performance against a potent Angels offense.
In six innings of work, Masterson stymied Angel hitters with his tough sinker, allowing one earned run on two hits. The young righty struck out four batters and left the game with a 3-1 lead, only to be undone by the lamentable middle relief of the Red Sox.
Already it's become an old story, even though it's still so early in the season.
The Red Sox bullpen (three different pitchers) allowed four runs -- on four hits and three walks -- before recording a single out in an abysmal 7th inning that saw the Angels take a 5-3 lead. Javier Lopez and Manny Delcarmen were just awful (two earned runs apiece), and even Hideki Okajima didn't even look like his usual, dependable self. David Aardsma and Julian Tavarez were no better in their turns on the mound.
Whether it's Lopez, Delcarmen, Tavarez, Aardma, or Mike Timlin, it is often an adventure -- or misadventure -- for the Red Sox. No lead is safe when any member of this group takes the mound, as we've repeatedly seen in the season's opening month.
The powerful Red Sox offense has bailed out the bullpen with 10 come-from-behind wins already this year. That's the significant reason the Red Sox, despite the loss today, still have the best record in the American League at 15-9.
It's too bad that Masterson's masterful performance was spoiled by such futility and incompetence. But the Red Sox are not alone. The same problem prevails all over baseball. As I've said before, middle relief is no relief at all.
No matter, Justin Masterson gave us something to look forward to today, and he lived up to all the hype. That's often tough to do; many young players wilt under such expectations. His presence will provide depth and additional possibilities as the season progresses. We're sure to see him again this year, and at this rate it may be as a middle reliever.
Any one of the guys that let him and the rest of the team down -- again -- today could be out of a job before long.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.