Talkin Sox with Dan

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Archive for the tag “Matt Moore”

Silver Linings

Photo courtesy of nesn.com

The Red Sox are in the middle of a critical stretch which includes ten games against the Yankees, Rays, and Orioles—three teams within the division that possess solid pitching and records over .500. It’s a heck of a way to start the second half of the season for a team that could use a bullpen piece or three.

Monday night’s loss, as deflating as it felt at the time, shouldn’t be perceived as anything more than it was – a divisional loss against a hot team. Matt Moore was absolutely fantastic. Nothing more to it.

In fact, as losses go, this one was not a particularly bad one. It was actually an excellent demonstration of how the Red Sox have been able to play at or around .600 baseball for most of the season when no one believed that they could sustain that level of success before the year began. And that’s before Jon Lester decided to post a 93 ERA+ through his first 20 starts of the season, and Clay Buchholz’ status went from Cy Young candidate to Missing in Action.

This team is deep. Last night reinforced that point.

With Buchholz on the shelf until at least some time in late August, the Red Sox have turned to 24-year old Brandon Workman. The tall Texan began the season pitching with Double-A Portland before receiving a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket in early June.

Meanwhile, Allen Webster, despite his eye-popping stuff, failed in his attempts to claim Buchholz’ rotation spot. In six big league starts, Webster posted a robust 9.57 ERA while walking 4.8 batters per nine frames. He simply was not ready. Alfredo Aceves filled in admirably at times, but the Red Sox have deemed his on-field performance not worth the baggage that comes with being, well, Alfredo Aceves.

Enter Workman.

Including Monday night, he has made two major league starts. His line? 12.1 innings pitched, nine hits, four earned runs, three walks, and a 2.92 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting a meager .214 against him. Workman carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the A’s in his debut, and he settled down last night against the Rays after a shaky first inning. Both Oakland and Tampa Bay would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, so it’s not as if Workman has faced the Astros and the White Sox in his two starts. In fact, the Rays are behind only the Orioles, Tigers, and Red Sox in team OPS in the American League. The A’s are more towards the middle of the pack.

Webster was not ready for the majors. Workman, on the other hand, certainly appears equipped to contribute down the stretch.  He deserves a ton of credit for working hard and performing well, but the Red Sox front office should be commended for building the organizational depth up to the point where the team can confidently pluck guys like Workman from their farm and expect good results. We’re only two summers removed from this, after all.

Now, as the deadline approaches, the Red Sox are in an interesting position. They do not have any glaring holes on the roster with the exception of the bullpen, an area where pieces should come easily and at a relatively inexpensive cost. They could pursue a starter, like Jake Peavy, to fortify the pitching staff and move Workman to the bullpen. Or the team could decide to pass on the starting pitching market at the deadline and only look to augment their bullpen.

To be honest, I’m fine with either choice. My ambivalence towards the situation derives from knowing that the Red Sox finally have enough depth in the organization to support a quality team in Boston.

And despite the loss, last night was a perfect example of just that.

Patience is Key to Bard’s Success

Daniel Bard is going to give up a lot runs over the course of not-so-many innings in 2012.

Get used to it.

It is not easy to transition from dominant reliever to starter on a team that carries lofty expectations like the Red Sox. Nothing goes under the radar. Everything is magnified. And that undoubtedly makes change of any kind more difficult in a hotbed like Boston.

Media and fans will always be around to question the choices made on and off the diamond by management. That’s part of the fun, after all. In turn, however, management must remain steadfast in the decisions they make. After announcing that Mike Aviles, not Jose Iglesias, will begin the season as the starting shortstop, it would be unfair to both parties for GM Ben Cherington or Bobby Valentine to state that Opening Day is still a week away and a lot of things can happen between now and then. It would represent doubt and a lack of resolve. The decision-makers on Yawkey Way would look rather fickle.

So it is curious that reports out of Fenway South last week indicated that Bard would be heading back to the bullpen when the Red Sox break camp. The news broke the day after the tall right hander threw five innings against the Blue Jays, allowing three runs on three hits. He walked three and fanned two.

Bobby Valentine was not impressed. According to CSNNE’s Sean McAdam, Valentine cited the low number of changeups thrown by Bard, his lack of control, and his poor efficiency with regard to the high pitch count over just five frames.

Valentine is anything but stupid. He knows that the process of a reliever transitioning to starter is not one that is generally smooth. There are roadblocks. Instead of listing Bard’s struggles in his outing a week and a half ago against Toronto as natural obstacles that are bound to occur, he used them in a way that made it seem like he was positioning Bard for a demotion to the bullpen.

And I can’t say I blame him.

Valentine is not making Fenway Park his permanent residence. This is a two-three year lease, max. So if Valentine believes that he can squeeze more productivity out of Bard The Reliever than Bard The Starter in the short term, why wouldn’t he try to make him his closer or stud set-up man?

I would.

Success for Valentine will not be measured in how the 2016 or 2017 Red Sox fare. He needs to start accumulating wins now, not later. Despite that, Valentine will realize, if he hasn’t already, that some decisions even transcend Bobby V.

Bard’s move from reliable reliever to middle of the rotation starter falls into that category. You can make a valid argument that Bard belongs in the bullpen. His repertoire is conducive to late inning, high leverage situations. He was miserable as a starter early in his professional career. I get it. But the Red Sox and Bard made the collaborative decision to give him a chance as a starter.

So what has changed since then?

The answer, in reality, is nothing. Sure, Bard has had an exceptionally mediocre spring, but that certainly should not preclude him from receiving the fair chance he was promised before pitchers and catchers reported. Bard will not be asked to be an All-Star. Instead, he will have the responsibility of being a middle of the road starting pitcher.

Let’s take a look at the projected fourth starters among the expected contenders in the American League:

Blue Jay-Brett Cecil

Indians-Josh Tomlin

Rangers-Yu Darvish

Tigers-Rick Porcello

Yankees-Ivan Nova

Rays-Matt Moore

Angels-Ervin Santana

You would be hard pressed to make a case that Bard does not compare favorably with the majority of these starters. Will he be as productive as Darvish in 2012? Probably not. Can he out perform Porcello? Absolutely. Does Bard have the type of ceiling that Moore possesses? He might.

The Red Sox brass as well as Valentine should treat Bard like Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz. Is there any chance that either of them winds up in the bullpen? No. The same should hold true for Bard.

He is a starter now.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe summed it up well.

“Everyone knew converting Bard from set-up man to starter was going to require patience. To pull the plug now wouldn’t be fair to Bard”

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