Quantity vs. Quality: The Red Sox Bullpen Problem with Lefties

Boston Red Sox Bullpen

Monday’s blowout loss to the Seattle Mariners served as an important reminder to the Boston Red Sox bullpen. While they have an abundance of left-handed relievers in there, the quality is low.

Chris Capuano, who is the rumored odd man out with Clay Buchholz returning, did not help his case to stay when he entered to relieve John Lackey in the 4th inning. The left-handed long relief man started his fifth outing of the month, playing an attempted bunt-hit off the bat of James Jones well to end the six-run 4th.

The 5th inning was a bit troublesome for Capuano as he allowed back-to-back hits to right field, which scored the Mariners’ eighth run of the contest.

Then, the southpaw retired the side in order in the bottom 6th, including striking out shortstop Brad Miller. Capuano struggled mightily in the month of June coming into the game. In 1 and 2/3 innings, he’d allowed five earned runs. The previous two months he only enabled opposing teams to score seven runs, and ended May with a stellar 1.95 ERA. So, obviously, this was a pivotal game for Capuano to prove his worth, and he did fine — well, that is, until the 7th inning.

It started with a James Jones ground-rule double and ended with a Logan Morrison home run, which was his second of the night. Capuano came out of the game allowing five earned runs, six hits, and inflating his ERA to a pedestrian 4.55. The 7th inning implosion most likely sealed his fate, and he could be gone within the week.

However, Capuano was not the only reliever, or left-hand reliever for that matter, who struggled Monday. Craig Breslow entered Monday with an underwhelming 4.18 ERA, but because of his track record, there was no indication that his future with Boston was in jeopardy.

Nevertheless, Breslow relieved Capuano after he failed to collect an out in the 7th. His outing began allowing a double to Mike Zunino, followed by a walk to Dustin Ackley. A fielder’s choice advanced runners to second and third while simultaneously getting the first out of the long 7th inning. Switch-hitting utility man Willie Bloomquist then struck out. With two outs in the inning, Breslow allowed his second walk to Cole Gillespie that loaded the bases. Luckily, he escaped it by inducing a ground ball off the bat of Jones. The 8th inning was much smoother, but was not without a blemish as Logan Morrision was walked, marking Breslow’s third in two innings.

Even Andrew Miller, the final of the three southpaws in the ‘pen, has choked in key spots this year. Though his 2.67 ERA is tremendous, his five losses are alarming.

The Boston Red Sox are very weak in this aspect of their team. Excuse me if I don’t believe moving Felix Doubront and his 5.19 ERA this year and career 7.76 ERA in 22 games out of the bullpen is the solution.

Koji Uehara Appears Mortal in Recent Stretch

Koji Uehara

Red Sox fans have come to assume that when Koji Uehara goes into a game, he will come out unscathed. However, his past three appearances have been anything but that.

On Wednesday, against the Twins, Uehara was called upon in the tenth inning, after nine scoreless from John Lackey. After recording two outs, Chris Parmalee put a 1-2 pitch from Koji over the fence, ultimately setting up the heroics from Mike Napoli and David Ortiz. Koji ended up with the win ironically, but I am sure John Lackey wasn’t amused after “going the distance” and watching his team almost give away the game.

Saturday, in a 1-1 game in the tenth inning, Koji was called upon yet again after Edward Mujica put a man on second base. On the first pitch of his outing, old friend Coco Crisp laced a line drive to right field, driving in the game winning run in another game in which the Sox could have used a little more offense. While it wasn’t all Uehara’s fault, it is expected that he gets the final two outs in situations like that.

Sunday, in the series finale against the A’s, Koji had undoubtedly his worst outing of the season. With a 6-4 lead, two unlikely characters in Stephen Vogt and John Jaso both hit solo home runs to tie the game. This was his first blown save of the season, but he went on to pitch the tenth inning as well, eventually getting the win after Big Papi saved him once again.

With the offense still figuring things out, the pitching needs to be top notch if the Sox want to climb back in the standings. The starting pitching has done its job, so this would be the worst time for the bullpen to start scuffling. Although Koji has still had a brilliant season to follow up his ridiculous 2013 campaign, another poor outing may be a cause for concern.

Will Middlebrooks Might Play in the Outfield

Will Middlebrooks

The Boston Red Sox have struggled to find offensive production in the outfield this season. As the Red Sox continue to search for options, the team has explored playing third baseman Will Middlebrooks in the outfield.

Middlebrooks, who was placed on the disabled list in May with a broken right index finger, is currently rehabbing with the Pawtucket Red Sox. Boston manager John Farrell told the Boston Globe on Saturday that Middlebrooks will not take fly balls in the outfield until he gets back into the flow of things at third base and at designated hitter 

“Our intent is to get him back in the flow of things at those two positions – that would be third base and DH,” said Farrell. “Once we get into the rehab progress or a plan – a week to 10 days – we may take a look at him in the outfield just to answer any questions of flexibility that we can before a decision on the roster is to be made. If that gives us an ability to find at-bats for Will if he were to come back here in that capacity so be it.”

The Red Sox signed shortstop Stephen Drew in part because of the lack of offensive production from Middlebrooks. Prior to Middlebrooks being placed on the disabled list, he was only hitting .197 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 21 games.

Brock Holt was called up to replace Middlebrooks on May 17 and has been one of Boston’s best hitters. Holt has batted lead-off while also playing five different fielding positions. Assuming Holt continues to put up the same numbers he has in the 27 games (.340 with one home run, 15 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .378) since the call-up, the Red Sox will have a tough decision to make once Middlebrooks is set to return in a few weeks.

The Red Sox have had little production from corner outfielders Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava and Grady Sizemore this season. So it makes sense that the team is exploring other options in attempts to get more offensive production from those spots.

Middlebrooks’ best chance to get playing time once he returns is to play in the outfield. It will be interesting to see if Middlebrooks can make the transition to right or left field.

Lowell Spinners Announce Kids Eat Free Mondays

lowell spinners

The Lowell Spinners, Class-A affiliate of the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, announced that each and every Monday home game during the 2014 season will be a “Kids Eat Free Monday” at LeLacheur Park.

The promotion will provide a free kids meal, consisting of a hot dog, bag of chips and soft drink or water, to each child with a paid admission for the game. Each child, aged 10 & under, will receive a voucher upon admission that can be exchanged at any of the concession stands for a free kids meal.

“We are thrilled to be able to add to the affordability of coming to a Spinners game,” said Spinners President and General Manager Tim Bawmann. “We take great pride in creating a family friendly environment based upon affordability and top notch entertainment and this only furthers that message.”

The promotion will apply to all four Monday home games the Spinners play: June 23 (Red Sox World Series Trophy Night/World Series Banner Giveaway), July 14, July 28 (Law Enforcement Appreciation Night) and August 11.

In addition to the Kids Eat Free Promotion, all children, ages 12 & under, who are members of the Canaligator’s Kids Club receive complimentary tickets for all Monday home games and membership for the Kids Club is free.

Kids Eat Free is the second food themed promotion announced by the Spinners in as many weeks, as it was announced last week that each Wednesday Home Game will be a $1 Weenie Wednesday with $1 hot dogs all game long, courtesy of Kayem.

“With each promotion we are striving to make a trip to the ballpark more affordable,” said Bawmann. “Perhaps this will allow someone who hasn’t been able to come to a game, to now enjoy a night at the ballpark with the food on us!”

The Spinners open the 2014 season Friday, June 13 at LeLacheur Park when the Vermont Lake Monsters make their first trip of the season to Lowell. Individual, Group and Season Tickets are for the 2014 season are on sale now at www.LowellSpinners.com, by phone at (978) 459-1702 and in-person, Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm, at the Box Office.

Clay Buchholz: Head games

Clay BuchholzOkay, let’s cut to the chase shall we? Clay Buchholz has been absolutely horrendous this season, no arguing that. Last season, Clay came out of the gates strong and it seemed nothing could slow him down. Then a mid season injury struck, he came back and still pitched solid down the stretch for the Sox. Playoff time was a bit of a different story for Buchholz. You could tell in his few postseason starts that Clay wasn’t the same, he labored to get through a solid 5 innings for the most part. That was okay though, we knew that maybe he was still a little banged up, but at least he was keeping the team in position to win. It seemed easy to think that he just needed the offseason to recover and he’d be back at the top of his form that we’ve expected since that no hitter in 2007.

Now the story that is coming out after his recent shelling down in Atlanta is that the right hander lost 7 pounds during his outing?? I’m sorry Farrell, but I don’t think I can believe that utter nonsense. On top of that, it seems that poor Clay has hyperextended his knee and has landed back on the DL. Seriously? The problem with Clay isn’t just his body, it’s the fact that he’s the softest guy on the staff. He needs to be coddled like a baby after he sucks. There has always been a reason for a poor effort by Clay, never that he just didn’t have it. So it comes as no shock to me that Clay has another poor outing and of course lands back on the DL.

Sorry Clay, at the top of your game you’re a great pitcher, but when will that be? Your seasons are so up and down from year to year, you always have an excuse. We HATE excuses in Boston. You’ll probably go on to have a decent career, but I don’t think it’s a path the Red Sox should take.

After this season Boston should look to part ways for good with Clay Buchholz. The Red Sox put up with antics from guys like Manny Ramirez for one reason, he was an elite player. Clay is a good pitcher when he’s on, but why should we have to put up with him and his buddies sleeping over at Fenway Park because he can’t walk/drive a mile to his house? That would have been fine, but Clay got absolutely hammered on the mound on Patriot’s Day. This leaves us no option to wonder what actually went on at Fenway that night? The Red Sox need consistency on the mound and they just aren’t going to get it right now with Clay Buchholz.

It seems that the Red Sox will always need to worry what’s going on inside Clay’s head.

Lowell Spinners Faith & Family Day with Post-Game Concert

lowell spinners

The Lowell Spinners, Class-A affiliate of the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, announced they will host their first ever Faith & Family Day at the ballpark, highlighted by a post-game concert by Jimmy Needham with special guests Bobby Bishop and Lukus Simari Sunday, June 22.

The event coincides with the Spinners 3:05pm game with the Tri-City ValleyCats, with the concert presented by FUSE Christian Concerts, a 501c3 charitable organization.

 “We are very excited to add another dimension to our promotional schedule,” said Spinners Assistant General Manager Jon Boswell. “Jimmy’s music is really applicable for anyone as a mixture of a Gavin DeGraw and Jason Mraz, while his lyrics and passion really tie into the overall Faith & Family Night concept.”

Admission for the game and concert will be single admission, meaning for the price of a game ticket, fans can enjoy nine innings of baseball and entertainment PLUS the post-game from $7-$10. A limited amount of pre-game barbeque tickets remain available as well.

In addition to Needham, special guests Bobby Bishop and Lukus Simari will open the show. Simari, who grew up in Lowell, and Bishop, a Massachusetts resident, will bring a local flavor to the show.

 “We are really looking forward to welcoming Bobby and Lukus to LeLacheur Park,” said Boswell. “We think their music will really resonate with the crowd.”

In addition to the Post-Game concert, the game will include the traditional Spinners fare, including post-game Kids Run the Bases and Tooth-Brush Holder Bobble Heads for the first 1,000 fans through the gates, presented by Collins Dentistry for Children.

Tickets for Faith and Family Night, in addition to the full 2014 Spinners schedule are on sale now at www.LowellSpinners.com or by phone at (978) 459-1702. The Spinners open their 2014 season at home against the Vermont Lake Monsters on Friday, June 13 with a 7:05 first pitch.