Temporary — and Permanent — Rotation Fixes
Night after night, hit after hit, the Sox rotation is looking more like a punch-drunk boxer than a viable contender.
Though Lester has reaffirmed his ace status and Buchholz has put together a nice season on the surface, there isn’t much to lean on after those two.
Though we knew what we were getting into trotting Daisuke to the mound — with his salary making him all the more cumbersome and immobile — the focus shifts to Tim Wakefield.
The elder statesman posting a quality 8.0 innings on May 23rd, imploded on Friday, throwing 3.2 innings with 12 hits, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, and 9 earned runs.
The fact that he is scheduled to start again on Thursday is a positive, but, considering he is a 43 year-old knuckleballer with a recent history of serious injury, that most recent start is a significant red flag.
If Wakefield is combating any sort of injury — or even a mechanical issue stemming from weakness lingering from last season’s injuries — he can’t be counted on to perform. Even a small tweak in his delivery or arm angle could have drastic consequences, turning his fluttering knuckler into a batting practice meatball.
Repeating a violent, precise motion such as a pitcher’s delivery takes an incredible amount of strength and conditioning. Any weakness or fatigue in his shoulder, hip — or back, perhaps (missed 41 games, back, 7/21/09-8/26/09; 4 games, back, 9/01/09-9/05/09; 13 games, back, 9/21/09 – 10/08/09) could have severe consequences for his ability to repeat his throwing motion.
If injuries or fatigue were a factor in Friday’s start, it would go a long way in explaining the 12 hits and three walks.
Nevertheless, in lieu of information from the trainer’s table, we have to withhold judgment until a later date. …but he is a guy to keep an eye on. Though bad outings happen, at Wakefield’s age and recent injury history, a one start blowup takes on a whole new meaning.
With this in mind, the Sox need to ready themselves for the possibility that Wakefield is unable to serve in the rotation. With Josh Beckett suffering a setback in his rehabilitation and Boof Bonser and Junichi Tazawa on the DL, the list of internal replacements for Wakefield becomes painfully short.
At the moment, there are only three remaining starting pitchers on the 40-man roster who have spent time above AA: Fabio Castro, Michael Bowden, and Felix Doubtront.
The 25 year-old Fabio Castro is one such candidate. Having pitched parts of two MLB seasons in his career, his adequate strikeout numbers are no match for a putrid walk rate of 5.4 BB/9 in 43.2 career innings. His AAA history echoes this trend, Castro holding a 4.4 BB/9 rate in 246.1 innings. 2010 has been more of the same, as Castro has posted a 4.8 BB/9 rate and 7.9 K/9 rate in 32.0 innings. At the moment, he is not big league material — even as a fill-in.
The second of the three, Michael Bowden, would likely be the first called on despite his struggles in Pawtucket this season (41.2 IP, 26 K, 21 BB, 9 HR, 5.83 ERA). For those who remember, Bowden wasn’t especially sharp in the bigs last year, either, memorably slapped around by the Yankees leading to a 9.56 ERA/4.85 xFIP in 16.0 MLB innings. His career 6.43 K/9 and 3.00 BB/9 MLB rates, though adequate, are a bit difficult to judge, given that he has only spent 21.0 innings in the bigs. With his 2010 AAA struggles holding the most weight, Bowden does not appear ready for a promotion.
Last of the three, and perhaps the most interesting name, is Felix Doubront. Splitting time between Portland and Pawtucket this season, Felix has posted a decent 3.5 BB/9 to go along with an encouraging 8.4 K/9. He struggled with his command at Portland in ’09, registering a 3.9 BB/9 in 121.0 IP. However, if he can add a few more quality innings to his current total of 49.0, he may win enough supporters to find himself in consideration for a promotion to the bigs.
Still, it’s difficult to make a legitimate case for Doubront seeing as he has totaled just 6.0 innings above AA. In addition, the organization may not want to promote him before Bowden, sending a discouraging message the ladder pitcher that he has fallen out of favor However, with few options available internally, Felix may find himself in line for a spot start at some point this season, seeing as the team has few other 40-man roster options.
Whether or not Castro, Bowden, or Doubront ultimately find themselves in line for starting duty will depend on a number of factors — most important being Beckett’s health, Wakefield’s performance, and, if it comes to it, the outside trade market.
Given the internal options, the Sox may want to start poking around out there to see what is available.
Lowell to the Anaheim Angels?
Within minutes of Kendry Morales’ walk off home run — and subsequent Gramatica-esque leg-break — the name game was full speed ahead, connecting anyone with a spare corner infielder to the Angels.
Not surprisingly, Mike Lowell was at or near the center of attention during much of the immediate aftermath. The Sox, obsessed with dumping the aging third baseman, seemed as good a candidate as any to make a move.
Should a trade occur, the Sox and Angels would likely come to some sort of agreement similar to the nullified trade with Texas this off-season. Though it may seem at first glance that the Angels would pay more out of desperation, this is negated by the Sox’ marginalized bargaining power.
Boston has already laid its cards on the table. Everyone and their grandmother is aware of the team’s willingness to trade Lowell, and, with this winter’s arrangements with Texas having gone public, the Angels know exactly what Lowell’s price is. Coupled with the fact that there are viable trade partners other than Boston, the Angels have a good amount of leverage in their corner should they sit at the bargaining table with the Sox.
Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times lists a few names that would fit the Angels, headlined by Houston’s Lance Berkman and Chicago’s Paul Konerko. Also mentioned are Adam Dunn, Russell Branyan, Adam LaRoche, and a darkhorse candidate in Prince Fielder. Lowell is not mentioned in the article.
Anaheim is not without internal options, either. Reports have indicated that Mike Napoli may take reps at first, while the team could promote slugger Mark Trumbo from AAA. Napoli at first is an interesting option, though the team would be forced to press backup catcher Bobby Wilson into action far more often — likely an unattractive solution for the Angels.
Trumbo, too, has his drawbacks. Though he is hitting for great power at Salt Lake (11 HR in 194 PA), his 40:11 strikeout to walk ratio indicates he may have trouble hitting big league pitching. The power, though intriguing, could disappear upon appointment to the Majors. Unfortunately, Salt Lake has not visited Colorado Springs as of yet this season, so I cannot report what his potential weaknesses are. Still, the poor K:BB rate indicates he may struggle at laying off bad pitches, meaning that his problems would be magnified against better, smarter Major League hurlers.
Unfortunately, I cannot confirm this without seeing him in person. However, being a member of the Angels’ 40-man roster, he has a leg up on the competition regardless of, potentially, a flawed approach at the plate.
MLBTradeRumors.com concurring, reporting that no such deal is in the works, it is no guarantee that a deal cannot happen. Morales breaking his leg on Saturday night, it is not surprising that the rumor does not have legs less than 48 hours after the injury.