The Red Sox bullpen was viewed as their biggest asset going into the 2013 season, and that is statement is farthest from truth on July 19th. The Sox had a deadly 7th, 8th, 9th combination with 3 guys who had closer experience. People lauded over this pen that would only force the Sox starters to go only 6 innings and still feel comfortable giving the ball over. Koji Uehara, Andrew Bailey, and Joel Hanrahan made up this super bullpen, but now only Uehara remains. Early in the season the Sox lost Hanrahan who had nearly every type of elbow surgery possible. Today John Farrell announced that Bailey has “pretty significant” damage to his shoulder and surgery is a possibility. If Bailey opts for the surgery he’ll be sidelined for approximately 12 months. If he decides just to rehab the shoulder, it’s still unlikely he’ll return before the season ends. Either scenario shows that the Sox search for another bullpen arm should be intensified. For now, Jose De La Torre will fill the void left by Bailey, but I doubt he’s the permanent fix.
Two guys, who appear to be long shots at best, have been added to the fold. Today the Sox announced the signings of Jose Contreras and Brandon Lyon. Both relievers have been assigned to AAA Pawtucket. Lyon, a former Red Sox, was pitching with the Mets earlier this year. Over 34.1 innings he posted a 4.98 ERA before getting released. Contreras, was with Pirates to begin this season pitching just 7 innings in 5 games with an ERA of 9.00 before getting sent to AAA Indianapolis. In his 19.1 innings in AAA he was dominant with a .0.93 ERA and 11.17 K/9. The Pirates released him and now he’s here hoping for an opportunity. WEEI’s Michael Holley speculated that this could be an attempt to lure top Cuban pitching prospect Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to sign with the Sox. Gonzalez is likely to make a decision this week, and a chance to pitch alongside Jose Contreras would be alluring to a Cuban, but it’s not likely to be a deciding factor. Either way Lyon and Contreras are likely just depth moves to help with the depleted bullpen.
- Andrew Bailey likely out for the season, may need shoulder surgery (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- The Red Sox sign Jose Contreras and Brandon Lyon (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Boston Red Sox: All-Star break report card (isportsweb.com)
The Boston Red Sox have surprised almost all of baseball this season by becoming contenders after having the second worst record in franchise history. In the offseason they changed the culture of the team, ousting manager Bobby Valentine and negative influences like Josh Beckett, and have added players who have been known as “good guys” around the league, like Jonny Gomes and David Ross. The change has been day and night for the Sox, instead of the constant soap opera that was the Red Sox clubhouse coupled with losing game after game, they have quietly worked their way to the best record in the American League.
Now this hasn’t come without some difficulties on the way, though. The bullpen hasn’t had much success, with the only two consistent relievers being Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa. Andrew Miller was working his way to joining the Japanese duo, but his season has ended due to foot surgery. The Sox’s starting rotation has also been inconsistent. Although it hasn’t been to the level of the bullpen, the rotation has had issues. After hot starts from Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, they have both fallen off. Buchholz has struggled with injuries, while Lester hasn’t been able to pitch anywhere near the level he was at, at the beginning of the season. The last major problem the Sox have had is the left side of the infield. So far this year Jose Iglesias, Will Middlebrooks, Stephen Drew, Brandon Snyder, Jonathon Diaz, and Brock Holt have played either shortstop or third base this season, and aside from Jose Iglesias, none have been all that great. Currently the two men who were projected to be the starters for the year, Middlebrooks and Drew find themselves in the minors and on the DL respectively. Overall, those three areas are where they should consider upgrading at the trade deadline. Here are some names who may find themselves on the Red Sox come August:
NOTE: Since writing this the Red Sox acquired Matt Thornton and cash considerations from the White Sox for Brandon Jacobs.
Matt Thornton (CWS): The 36 year old, 10 year veteran reliever’s name has been mentioned in trade talks the past few years, and the Red Sox name always pops up. The Sox’s interest has likely picked in the lefty after losing Andrew Miller for the season leaving Craig Breslow as the only left handed reliever in the Sox’s pen. Thornton hasn’t been as dominant as he was in previous seasons, he’s still been better than a lot of the Red Sox’s relievers this year. He’s posted a 4.00 ERA, but has a career ERA of 3.54. He’s also only allowed 4 home runs, which has been the root of many of the Sox relievers problems. He’s been one of the top lefties in the game the past several years and shouldn’t cost too much based on his age and expiring contract ($6 million option for next season). He’d be a worthwhile investment for the Sox if they can get him for their price.
Bobby Parnell (NYM): The Mets’ closer has had ups and downs throughout his career, but the past couple of seasons he’s seemingly figured it all out and has become a force in the back end of the Mets’ bullpen. The hard throwing righty has posted 2.48 ERA in 48 innings pitched allowing no home runs and allowing just 9 walks. The Sox have reportedly had talks with the Mets about Parnell already, but their price was too much. More recently it appears like he’s been pulled off the market. It’ to be expected when a team has control over a player for multiple years and hope to contend with the player before they hit free agency. Parnell is first eligible for free agency in 2016, but the Mets are in dire indeed of assets to build around and Parnell can give them that. His value has never been higher, so it wouldn’t be shocking to find him in a Red Sox jersey by the end of the month.
Matt Garza (CHC): Matt Garza is a name known to many Sox’s fans. He spent 3 years pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays before being traded to the Chicago Cubs. He was part of the Rays team that knocked out the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS before losing in the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies. Needless to say he’s pitched in big games before, although not recently, because of the deplorable state of the Cubs. Luckily for the Sox though, that same reason is why he’s available. Although they are reportedly working on a contract extension, due to the great interest they are more than likely to move him. He’s gotten off to a good start this year after being injured to begin the year. In 10 starts he’s had a 3.22 ERA while averaging 8.1 K/9. The down side to it all is dealing with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, former heads of the Red Sox front office. They know nearly every prospect in the Sox’s system and know who to pursue and who to avoid. If the Sox can find a way to get him for a reasonable price, but if the price is too high, then there’s no sense in going after a marginal upgrade.
Yovani Gallardo (MIL): The Brewers ace is widely considered to be the second best starter on the market, behind Garza. He’s been one of the Brewers top pitcher since 2009, but this year his numbers are at an all time low. If he continues to this trend he’ll have his highest ERA of his career by a wide margin and his lowest K/9 rate. His walks are down, but is batting average against is at an all time which negates that. All in in all it’s been a tough year for Gallardo, but his track record shows that he’s capable of being much better. Maybe a move to a winning atmosphere where he’s not looked as the ace could help him perform better, or he may just be starting is decline, although at 27 that is very unlikely. Also, moving to the American League, especially the east, could make matters even worse. The Sox should, and likely will, avoid Gallardo, unless they discover Clay Buchholz will miss a significant amount of time.
Francisco Rodriguez (MIL): K-Rod has had a bumpy road since setting the single season save record for the Angels. After that season he bolted for the glitz and glamor (and the money) of New York, where he stumbled on and off the field. He’s now in Milwaukee, and this year he’s seemingly regained his form. He’s appeared in just 22 games this season after starting the year in the minors. He’s posted a 1.25 ERA in 21.2 innings and striking out batters at a great rate, 10.38 per innings. He’s also allowed just .195 batting average against with a WHIP of just 1.06. Overall, he’s a risky pick up, but he could be worth it for the Sox.
Michael Young (PHI): Young fits in exactly with what the Sox have been doing. He’s one the most respected guys in the league who always puts the team first, but can he help them win games? After being the face of the Rangers for the better part of the past 13 years, he was shipped to Philadelphia and has responded well. He’s hitting .288/.344/.411 in 83 games with 6 home runs and 24 RBIs. Although the power is down a little he’s still performed better than all of the Red Sox’s other third basemen and shortstops. The Phillies gave up very little to get him and likely wouldn’t ask for much more in return. He’d be a great fit in the clubhouse and the lineup.
Chase Utley (PHI): This seems like an odd target with Utley being a long time second baseman, and has only played first and second base, but he told the Phillies he could play third if need be. If the Sox believe he can make a successful transition to third he might be a risk worth taking. Utley has batted .276/.340/.504 this year with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in just 61 games. The 5 time All Star has been arguably the Phillies most consistent hitter this year. It’d take a quality prospect or two to get the face of the Phillies franchise, but he may just be worth it.
Jonathon Papelbon (PHI): Last, but not least, every body’s favorite trade target the former Red Sox’s closer Jonathon Papelbon. One of the most dominant closers Boston has ever seen. He bolted for Philly following the collapse of 2011, but his new team didn’t perform up to expectations finishing with a 81-81 record. This year they appear to be out of the hunt once again, so the rumors start to swirl. Phillies GM has been adamant that he won’t move Papelbon, but that could be just for leverage. His contract runs through 2015, so if Amaro believes they can contend next year and/or the year after, he has a reason to hold on to him. The thing is, Papelbon is aging and so is the rest of the roster, so unloading big contacts might be the first step. The Sox are interested if the Phillies want to negotiate, but the price might be extremely high. If the Sox feel this is the year than they should go all in, but the reason they never paid him like the Phillies did was to avoid the back end of the deal, the same part they’d be picking up. Logically it doesn’t make sense, but the bullpen is in such disarray that the Sox might just go for it.
Obviously these aren’t the only options for the Red Sox, and they can numerous directions. All in all, I think the Sox will be aggressive at the deadline and try to improve the club as much as possible.
Dempster (0-1) v. Arrieta (0-1)
Today was Ryan Dempster’s first home start in Fenway Park. Unfortunately the weather didn’t want to cooperate much. The game didn’t start off too well. He gave up a single to start the game and miscommunication between Ellsbury and Victorino led to second and third with no outs. Dempster got out of the jam only allowing a run, but it put the team behind nevertheless. He then looked to settle in until the fourth when he gave up a homer to Nick Markakis and Adam Jones scored on a Jackie Bradley Jr. error. Dempster’s day would end after the fifth due to a rain delay.
On the other side Jake Arrieta struggled with his command. His pitches were all over the place, but he was able to get outs with his pitches that did find the strike zone. His first issues arose in the second after he gave up a 2 out walk to Daniel Nava, Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled off the Monster to score Nava from first. The Sox would then strike for 2 more the next inning to take the lead, but that was short lived as the Sox faltered in the fourth as I mentioned earlier. All in all Arrieta walked 4 and gave up 3 runs in 5 innings. His start was also cut short due to the rain.
Coming out of the rain delay, the game was tied and former Oriole, Koji Uehara, took the hill. He delivered a solid 1,2,3 inning. Then Tommy Hunter took over for Arrieta and proceeded to let up back to back homers to Daniel Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia giving the Sox a 5-3 lead that would until the ninth.
In the ninth Farrell handed the ball to closer Joel Hanrahan, who was looking for career save 100. He started the ninth the same way he did on Monday, with a home run. I was sitting there thinking, “Is he trying to do his best Papelbon impression and give us all a heart attack every night?” He then got the next two batters out and I relaxed a bit. Then Ryan Flaherty stepped up to the plate looking for his first hit in his 18th at bat. Of course he pokes it through the hole between short and third. Then pinch runner Alexi Casilla stole second and Nolan Reimold walks. Then Nate McLouth stepped in and on a 2-2 count Hanrahan threw a pitch in the same spot that had been called a strike earlier that at bat, and it was called a ball. I was outraged. It was clearly a strike. Then the next pitch could of gone either way, but unfortunately it went in favor of Baltimore. Then phenom Manny Machado comes to the plate bases loaded in a one run game. Then the worst possible thing that could have happened, happened. Wild pitch. Game tied. Now Hanrahan just needs to get us to the bottom of the ninth, but the next pitch is crushed for a 3 run homer to make it an 8-5 game. Andrew Miller came in after and finished the inning. Jim Johnson would come in for the O’s. He has a 1,2,3 inning and the Orioles win.
This was the biggest disappointment thus far, but these games happen, but Hanrahan worries me. I fear this could be a trend and that’s the last thing we want. Hopefully I’m wrong and he’s as dominate as he was in 2011.
Player of the Game: Jarrod Saltalamacchia 3 for 4, 2 RBIs, 2 2B, HR
8 games down 154 to go
I’ve decided this year I’m going to try to review every game this year. Unfortunately, with 162 games, coupled with my laziness, in all likelihood that won’t happen. I’ll try to get off to a good start and we’ll see how far I get. Today was Opening Day for the Red Sox and they were in New York to take on the Yankees. There was plenty of interesting story lines to go along with this game as well. For starters it was Red Sox Yankees which is always exciting, then there was Kevin Youkilis’ first game as a Yankee and first against the Sox as a Yankee. There was also the big league debut of Jackie Bradley Jr. We also got a look at the decimated Yankee lineup and the new look Red Sox minus David Ortiz and Stephen Drew. As you can see there was a lot going on in this game like any other Red Sox Yankees match up.
As for the game, the Sox got off to a hot start and never looked back. They were able to get to C.C. Sabathia early and rallied for 4 runs in the second inning keyed by a Jackie Bradley Jr. walk and hits by Jose Iglesias and Shane Victorino. After that Sabathia was able to settle in and lasted 5 innings giving up just those 4 runs on 8 hits and 4 walks. Jon Lester was better, but not by much. He too only lasted 5 innings giving up 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks. Most of his trouble came in the 4th where allowed the two runs off of 2 out 2 RBI single by Francisco Cervelli.
With the starters not going deep into the game we got a good look at both teams bullpens. Each team used 5 relievers over the last 4 innings. For the Sox, we got our first look at Koji Uehara and Joel Hanrahan for the first time in a Red Sox uniform. The Sox’s bullpen was phenomenal, allowing just 1 hit in four shutout innings. Unfortunately for the Yankees, their pen wasn’t as great. They allowed 4 runs on hits in their 4 innings of work. The one who really struggled was Joba Chamberlain. He came in in the 9th trying to hold the Sox lead at 3, but he ended up doubling it. He really struggled with his command and when he did get in the zone it was very hitable. He even had to be consoled by his good friend and now teammate Kevin Youkilis.
Every hitter, with the exception of Mike Napoli, got on base. Jackie Bradley Jr., although he failed to get a hit, he still made a huge impact. He walked 3 times, drove in a run, and made a great catch in left. Not bad for his MLB debut. Jose Iglesias surprised with 3 hits, even though he never got the ball out of the infield. The top of the order was very productive, with Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, and Dustin Pedroia combining for 8 hits and 6 RBIs. If the lineup can produce like this every night the Sox will be fine. Obviously you can’t expect 8 runs every night, but you can expect guys to grind out at bats and get on base.
All in all, the Sox came through with a 8-2 victory in John Farrell’s Red Sox managerial debut. The win went to Jon Lester and the loss to C.C. Sabathia. The Sox now lead the series 1 game to none.
Player of the Game: Jacoby Ellsbury 3 for 6 3 RBIs 1 3B
1 game down 161 to go