The triumphant return of Jon Lester last night certainly inspired many. It’s no small task to return from cancer to one of the biggest stages in the sports world, starting pitcher for a major league team, let alone the Boston Red Sox. However, it happened.
Lester, who we last left with a 7-2 record in his rookie season, made his 2007 debut in Cleveland, Ohio against a feared team with a very potent offense. His final line for the night was six innings, five hits, three walks, two runs and six strikeouts.
Certainly, it was a nice night for Lester, who was able to whiff six batters in six innings. Lester’s strikeouts had been a reason for worry, but he looked just fine on the mound. Actually, he pretty much looked like he did last year, although he seemed to be a bit crisper with his pitches. It’s too early to tell what kind of quality he can give us, but keeping Cleveland’s potent offense down is certainly cause for optimism.
Lester is expected to make one more start, then will more than likely be optioned back to Triple-A to make room for Curt Schilling. That’s certainly simple enough, unless Lester hurls two straight perfect games and Kason Gabbard can’t get out of the first.
At this point, however, it’s quite clear that Kason Gabbard belongs at the major league level. Does Jon Lester, too? Certainly, he does … but he’s not the one with the 4-0, 2.97 line, Gabbard is.
However, questions still abound about this decision to call up Lester. With Julian Tavarez sporting a 8.05 ERA in July with four starts, a change had to be made, considering the Red Sox were worse than the Kansas City Royals for the last two months. The decision was made; Lester to the majors. The Sox were not willing to wait any longer for Curt Schilling, and this is sound reasoning.
However, it did lead to the departure of Joel Pineiro. Concerning? Not exactly, as Tavarez holds a .250 BAA from pitches 1-15, .167 BAA from 16-30, and .254 from 31-45 … but things get ugly after that. Tavarez should be better than, or at least replicate, Pineiro’s effectiveness while with the Sox. However, it does take away a clear-cut replacement for Schilling.
What if Lester does throw two perfect games in a row? (Which he’s not going to, but what about two straight quality starts?) What then? Do we hold off Schilling, or send Lester down anyways?
That’s not even the most important issue, as the chances Lester does that are microscopic. The important issue is who Brendan Donnelly replaces. This is the story I will watch with interest as the season progresses, especially with July 31st around the corner (which could solve this issue I’m about to delve into) and rumors that Salomon Torres may be donning Sox red with Wily Mo Pena becoming a Pirate.
If that trade happens, then two pitchers have to go. One to make room for Torres, and one for Donnelly, who is sporting a 2-1 record and 3.05 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP. Donnelly has been valuable in the pen, and I definitely want him back.
The issue is that with Tavarez moving to the bullpen and Gabbard doing well, we have quite the conundrum. Who goes for Donnelly, assuming that Lester goes for Schilling? If we move Pena for Torres, who goes for Torres, and who replaces Wily Mo on the bench?
Not easy questions, given that coupled with the emergence of Gabbard in the rotation has been the emergence of Manny Delcarmen in the bullpen. Oy!
Assume we activate Donnelly. The easiest thing to do is option Manny Delcarmen to the minors. Ah, but why would we want to option someone with a 1.56 ERA in 17.1 innings (Donnelly has 20) and a 0.90 WHIP? (Statistics are guesstimated for all pitchers who pitched last night, going off their numbers from prior to the game.) That’s insanity.
Okay, second option is optioning Javier Lopez, who is our only lefty in the bullpen and boasts a 1-1 record, 3.33 ERA, and 1.44 WHIP. Do we want to do that? Take away a lefty weapon in the bullpen? Lopez certainly hasn’t fit the bill of a lefty specialist this year, notching a 1.72 WHIP against lefties as opposed to 1.19 against righties.
However, he’s been able to get double-plays, and he strikes out a lot of lefties. In 13.0 IP against lefties, he’s given up 15 hits, no homers, seven walks and 14 strikeouts. Against righties in 14.1 IP, he’s given up 10 hits, one homer, seven walks and six strikeouts.
He offers a different look (submarine) from a different side of the plate, and I’m not disposed to move him. But if we don’t move him, who do we move? Mike Timlin?
Ah, but he’s certainly impressed since returning from the DL and working through rust. In July, he’s thrown 14.1 innings and allowed zero runs. The unquestioned leader of the bullpen, that’s not a person I’m willing to move now that he’s re-established himself.
Kyle Snyder? He’s thrown 35.2 IP of 3.03 ERA ball, and yet … he’s someone I would move. I would be willing to package him with Pena, but not for another reliever. If we package him, we have that open space for Brendan Donnelly, and our problems are solved. No, rather I would prefer an upgrade on the bench. We’ve been saying for a long time that we need to upgrade the bullpen, and the trade rumors certainly support that.
But when you can’t even make room on your major league roster for Brendan Donnelly … do you really need to upgrade it? Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz (not to mention Craig Breslow and company down in Triple-A) can fill in in case of injury.
One option that I can’t really forsee, but also can’t rule out, is that Kason Gabbard starts imploding, so he gets optioned to Triple-A, Tavarez returns to the rotation, and there you go, open spot.
Another option is certainly to wait and see if Tavarez can still pitch efficiently out of the bullpen. If he can’t throw him on the DL, and Donnelly takes his place. But what about when Tavarez returns? These are all issues that have started to be in effect with the call-up of Lester. It got rid of one of the issues; Joel Pineiro. Now one of the roster crunches is solved, but what about the Donnelly crunch? If we move Pena for Torres, then that’s two pitching crunches, and the bench suffers for it.
No, I wouldn’t move Pena for Torres (as much as I am a fan of Torres; he’s very effective not including this year, marred by injury). I’d move him for an upgrade on the bench. I’m not ready to hand a bench job over to David Murphy, Jacoby Ellsbury, or Brandon Moss (who is all but 23 years old). They all need to play.
Who? Well that’s Theo’s problem … but get someone who can back Crisp up in centerfield, please!
The last two Fire Brand polls show an overwhelming majority for (a) sending Julian Tavarez to the bullpen over Tim Wakefield, Kason Gabbard and Curt Schilling by a margin of 87 percent. Meanwhile, the poll before that asked what people’s views were on Clay Buchholz’s first Triple-A start. The majority ruled that “it was an expected debut, nothing to worry about,” and Buchholz’s second start was much smoother (five innings, 10 K’s). New poll up!
News and Notes: The Oakland Athletics designated outfielder Bobby Kielty for assignment. The Red Sox are rumored to be interested in Kielty, who can bash lefties and play all three outfield positions. Only a scant seven for 36 on the season, Kielty hit .270/.329/.441 in 270 AB last year. I’ll haphazard a guess of Kielty for Joel Pineiro.