ATTN: Red Sox Nation,
Get ready. A patchwork bullpen that far exceeded expectations was a major factor in the big club building a big lead over the rest of the AL East. With the return of Mike Timlin and a key piece (JC Romero) being designated for assignment, the pen is evolving in to a bit of a question mark. Let’s face facts, this bullpen as presently constructed, is NOT good enough to lead the majors in bullpen ERA. How have they done it? On the strength of two individuals. Innings 8 and 9 are where our bread is buttered, with import Hideki Okajima and ironman Jonathan Papelbon. Who do you REALLY trust in the 7th inning? Let’s break it down.
For the past couple of years Timlin was the set up man and the rock of the Sox pen. This year? My feeling is that the 41 year-old reliever is running on fumes. He has been dealing with nagging injuries, and has been rendered ineffective when he has been on the mound. I have zero confidence when Tito makes the call and Timlin is the choice. It just seems like he is lacking the trademark late life on his heater that made him so useful through the years. Regardless, I find myself sweating bullets whenever that call is made.
As of late, the choice in the 7th has often been swingman Brendan Donnelly. Does he make anyone else EXTREMELY nervous? Something about the lackluster velocity on his fastball coupled with his herky-jerky motion. Can we just hand him the award for most violent delivery in baseball? There’s also the fact that Donnelly was a career minor league pitcher prior to age 31. That definitely irks me a bit. He turned in a treacherous month of May but has been very effective thus far in June. There’s just no way that more than 5 of you feel completely confident when he takes the hill. I can’t imagine that for a second.
I’m not going to give Joel Pineiro the honor of being discussed at length. Javier Lopez is in his second stint with the Sox and works well as a lefty specialist. He is not to be our go to 7th inning man, however.
What does all of this amount to? A two-man bullpen. That is not depth folks. There is no way that this pen is going to continue to enjoy the kind of success that they have so far in 2007. We better hope that the rotation continues to keep the pressure off. A stretch of sub-par starts could cause this pen to crack and send our season in to a frenzy. I fully believe that the pen is what will make or break the rest of the Red Sox 2007 season.