Jon Lester is making his Fenway debut tonight, and should get a very loud standing ovation for his triumphant return from cancer. Lester spent the majority of the year in Triple-A, then came up to the majors and stuck after the trade of Kason Gabbard and other pieces for Eric Gagne (which we will refrain from talking about for now).
Despite the courage of Lester’s return, his numbers don’t look that great. In four games, he’s won one game and thrown 21 innings. He has a 6.43 ERA over that span, and a 1.71 WHIP. Going up against Devil Rays ace Scott Kazmir, Lester has also opposed Cleveland’s Jake Westbrook, Tampa Bay’s James Shields, Seattle’s Horacio Ramirez and Los Angeles’ Dustin Mosely. Those are two very potent offenses (Cleveland and Los Angeles), an offense that takes a lot of hacks and scores runs (Seattle) and a young, tough team in Tampa Bay. He hasn’t had a walk in the park facing those teams, but he certainly hasn’t been blowing them away, either.
With the Yankees knocking aside opponents as effortlessly as King Leonidas shoves aside the Persians in 300, (seriously, watch it) the Red Sox’s margin for error has suddenly become thin. If Lester dazzles tonight, perhaps a move does not have to be made. However, what if he lives up to his 6.43 ERA and 1.71 WHIP? If he does, then I have to say, I’m a proponent of sending him to Triple-A for a recall to the majors in September. He can even be a reliever in the playoffs, as I think he could have success. While pitches 1-15 get whacked hard to the tune of a 12.00 ERA and 1.67 WHIP, his 16-30 pitches are sweet: 2.08 ERA, 1.15 ERA. It’s pitches 46-90 that he gets whacked around on.
Two options to replace Jon Lester are a former Red Sox mate and a young’un. Let’s start with the young Chosen One: Clay Buchholz. Rumor has it that Buchholz will be called up to start one of the doubleheader games against the Angels on Friday. If he can baffle the competition as well as he did Sunday (held Syracuse to two runs, three hits, two walks and nine whiffs in five innings) then I would have to give serious consideration to sending Lester down just on that account … either that or putting Buchholz in the bullpen (or Javier Lopez) in place of the wholly unreliable Kyle Snyder (really? A homer to Kevin Millar?).
Of course, it’s hard to justify sending Lester down after just one start by Buchholz, no matter how stellar it may be (okay, so maybe a no-hitter will justify it) … so this option isn’t likely. But how about the former Red Sox player? His name is David Wells.
Wells gutted out a lot of innings for the Sox in 2005 and 2006 before being sent to San Diego in August as the Red Sox fell out of competition and conceded the playoff hunt. We acquired catcher George Kottaras for him (who has a .688 OPS in Triple-A), a fine trade. Wells was nothing short of horrible in his past four starts, giving up hits left and right and posting a 14.04 ERA over that span, sending his overall ERA to 5.54. However, prior to that four-game stretch, his ERA stood at a cool 4.14.
Wells would cost nothing except money (as I’m sure the Padres will eventually release him once his time on Designated for Assignment expires) and he could be plugged in for a start or two to see if he has anything left in the tank. Wells is a big-game pitcher who could rise to the occasion against his former teams in the Yankees and Blue Jays. Honestly, I really want this move to happen; I don’t think anything negative could come from it.
In other news, here’s the results of the Fire Brand poll I threw up before I ran out on vacation. Now, we’ve had quite a few leadoff hitters this year: J.D. Drew, Dustin Pedroia, Coco Crisp, Kevin Youkilis and Julio Lugo are the principals. It’s heading towards high time that we settle on a permanent leadoff hitter, and the finalists seem to be Dustin Pedroia and Coco Crisp, who has been out the last two days with the flu.
Firebranders seem to agree that Crisp and Pedroia should be the top two choices. However, Crisp outpaces Pedroia to win the vote by a large margin.
Who should be our permanent leadoff hitter?
* Coco Crisp
39% of all votes
* Dustin Pedroia
33% of all votes
* Kevin Youkilis
14% of all votes
* Julio Lugo
7% of all votes
* J.D. Drew
7% of all votes
Now that we’ve settled on Crisp to be our leadoff hitter, we need to figure out who should bat second. I’m disqualifying Crisp from this vote, as we’ve settled on him as leadoff. I’m also disqualifying J.D. Drew, as we don’t want three lefties in a row (lineup balance, people). Thus, the contestants are: Julio Lugo, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. I’m predicting that Lugo finishes a distant third while Pedroia and Youkilis battle it out. Who do I think should get the nod?
Dustin Pedroia. He makes contact, putting the ball in play and allowing Coco to use his motor. He has a discerning eye and is batting .352/.416/.480 since May 1st (not including last night’s game). Kevin Youkilis (.306/.404/.487 since May 1) is also a more imposing figure and can be better served driving in the runs in either the fifth, sixth or seventh slot (our next poll will be who should bat fifth) as he projects to hit for more power and just overall, I think, fits better down in the order. In the same vein, though, I’ve always thought Pedroia would make a fantastic sixth or seventh hitter, so … let your voice be heard! Throw your vote down and tell us who you voted for and why!