All indications point to Justin Masterson taking Dice-K’s place in the rotation after Dice was placed on the 15-day DL with arm fatigue.
Masterson threw 60 pitches in relief of Dice-K in the midst of a taxing bullpen effort in a 12-inning game. The bullpen thankfully gets two straight days off before going up against the Orioles at home in a four-game swing.
As Masterson prepares to face the Orioles on Patriots Day, the trickle-down effect is significant, especially with the specter of the Josh Beckett suspension hanging over the team. As Tony Massarotti wrote in the Boston Globe:
Given that the Sox have off days today and next Thursday (April 23),
don’t be surprised if they push for a quick resolution on Beckett so
that they can more effectively manage his suspension. Postponing the
suspension could ultimately put the Boston staff under even more
duress, so the Sox might be better served to deal with the matter
sooner rather than later.
Basically, the Sox play six games in a row before getting another off-day next Thursday, so by learning about Beckett’s suspension (which will likely result in him having to be pushed back a day or two) in advance of next week’s off-day, the club can perhaps get away without having to call up a spot starter.
But that’s an issue for next week. The issue now is the trickle-down effect from the Dice-K DLing and Masterson’s move into the rotation.
Masterson was a versatile option out of the bullpen that changes the makeup of the pen significantly. Masterson and Okajima were the two options out of the gate in the seventh and eighth to close out a game with the lead. Now, Saito likely takes Masterson’s role, with Manny Delcarmen elevated in a role where the Sox pitch from behind.
Hunter Jones, 25, was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2005 and can chew up innings. This was likely a big factor in his recall over Daniel Bard — the fact that he can soak up innings. (In 2008 for Pawtucket, he threw 50.2 innings over 35 relief appearances.)
He throws a 89-92 mph two-seam fastball and mixes in a slurve that is tough on hitters. Despite being a lefty, he is not a lefty specialist and should not be used in that role. So far this year for Pawtucket, he’s appeared in 3.2 innings, whiffing two and allowing no hits or walks.
With this development, it can only be surmised that if the Sox are forced to miss a start completely, they’ll dip into Triple-A for a start. Logic dictates that it would be Clay Buchholz, but Tony Massarotti seems to think that would mess with Buchholz’s head (I disagree). To humor Mazz, though, we’ll present the second option: Michael Bowden.
If this was to happen, the Sox would have to demote Hunter Jones, recall one of the B’s, then demote that pitcher immediately after the game. Hunter wouldn’t be able to come back because you have to spend 10 days in the minors after a demotion, excepting an injury at the major league level. In that case, you would probably see Devern Hansack plucked over Daniel Bard, simply due to Hansack’s ability to eat innings.
So you can see, we’re dipping into our pool rather significantly based on just the Dice-K injury. It just goes to show you can never have too much pitching.
Alright, enough about potential moves. What’s the impact?
Not much, actually. Masterson is clearly superior to Dice-K as an option at the moment. I look forward to Dice returning, but at least for the moment, we’ll gain an advantage in slotting Masterson into the rotation.
Whatever advantage we gain there, however, is potentially compromised by the bullpen. Elevating Saito into a more prominent role is not the problem — he’s proven there. No, the problem is that the Sox shy away from using Saito on back-to-back days. This means that the righty complement to Hideki Okajima the day after Saito pitches would most likely be Manny Delcarmen (although Ramon Ramirez has been nothing short of sterling in the early going).
And that’s a problem. The impact is going to be felt in the bullpen, perhaps more significantly than the impact of slotting Masterson into the rotation.