Matt Barnes Likely Next Man Up If Starter Goes Down

matt  barnes

This winter the Red Sox made some moves to their pitching staff that signaled they were moving onto the next wave of pitching prospects. Besides not being able to retain Jon Lester, gone are Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranaudo. De La Rosa and Webster were sent to Arizona in the Wade Milley trade, while Ranaudo was sent to Texas for Robbie Ross.

Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, and Eduardo Rodriguez are the next wave of pitching Matt Barnesprospects the Red Sox have, and are all left handed, highly valued in today’s game. We are not going to argue about who has the most potential as the Red Sox hope all three lefties pan out. The one holdover from the Pawtucket Red Sox rotation from last season is Matt Barnes.

Barnes, 6’4 210 pounds out of the University of Connecticut throws hard and has been a starter since the Red Sox drafted him in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft. There has been talk of Barnes converting to a reliever this season and even cracking the opening day roster out of the ‘pen. However with Alexei Ogando and Robbie Ross Jr. likely ahead of Barnes of the depth chart, he may start the season in AAA Pawtucket and be ready for the call if a starter should go down.

Not many teams have all five starters make 30 starts in a season. The Rangers are already experiencing problems with Yu Darvish likely missing the year because of the Tommy John Surgery. The Blue Jays will be without Marcus Stroman for the season after he torn his MCL during fielding drills. And just yesterday the against the Red Sox, Yankees starter Chris Capuano strained his quad running to cover first base. Rotation depth is something you need in baseball to make it to October.

Barnes made his major league debut last season after the minor league season ended. He appeared in 5 games for the Sox tossing 9 innings, while giving up 4 runs. So far this spring Barnes has appeared in 2 games, striking out 6 in 4 innings of work with only 2 hits allowed. The Sox could have used Barnes as a trade chip like they used Webster, De La Rosa, and Ranaudo, but they kept him– signaling he is still a part of the future.

A lot can happen in the three weeks left of spring training, but don’t be surprised if Matt Barnes does not make the team out of spring training. The value he has as a depth starter is huge and flip flopping him from starter to reliever might have an impact on him, like it did on Brandon Workman last season.

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.

Give Chris Capuano a Shot in the Rotation

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Chris Capuano has been phenomenal during his first two months in a Red Sox uniform. He’s compiled a stellar 1.95 ERA and 3.01 FIP from the bullpen, striking guys out at a high rate and surrendering just one long ball in 27 and 2/3 innings of work. The southpaw does walk his fair share of batters—posting a 3.58 BB/9 rate—but that’s been offset as he’s left 81.7% of runners on base this season.

The 35-year-old has been a predominate middle-of-the-rotation starter in his ten-year MLB tenure. Nevertheless, Capuano took the Red Sox’ offer this past offseason, cognizant that Boston had a deep rotation in place.

A more probable opportunity to get back to a starting role manifested when Ryan Dempster announced he was taking a year off from baseball. Still, the Red Sox’ rotation was inhabited by former All-Stars Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, and Jake Peavy. It was extremely unlikely he’d get the chance to become a starter in Boston, but that was not the reason the Massachusetts native became a Red Sox player.

Coming into 2014, Capuano had seen postseason action once. That lone appearance came last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Signing with the defending World Series Champions would ensure he’d get another taste of October baseball, right?

Well, it’s certainly early, but Boston’s 23-29 record entering last Thursday—placed them fourth in the American League East— eight games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays. They’re not firing on any cylinders, and seem to lack some collective intangible that was prevalent last year.

In no way, shape, or form am I insinuating all hope is lost, because that’s not true. However, Boston has dug themselves in an early hole and need to strike gold with all the little decisions that often go unnoticed in the course of a 162-game season. The next decision they confront is who will replace Clay Buchholz and his 7.02 ERA in the rotation.

Numerous names have been thrown around such as Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa. To me, it’s clear who it should be; it’s the guy I’ve been talking about: Chris Capuano.

Capuano is the only left-handed pitcher of the three, giving him an advantage. Felix Doubront, who is a lefty, was replaced by right-handed pitcher Brandon Workman earlier in the week. While Workman did delight in his spot-start, it relinquished the preferred 3:2 right to left-handed pitcher ratio in the rotation.

Having the rotation setup as aforementioned, enables them to keep opposing teams off-balance. It’s common knowledge some teams have a lineup built to thrive more against one or the other so, teams prefer to have a blend of both to give opponents a variety.

Also, Capuano is the only one with major-league experience. Webster and De La Rosa have been abysmal in their short stints with the big-league team. As we’ve witnessed lately with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts, the transition to the majors is not always a smooth one. Boston needs consistency now, and they’ll have the best chance of attaining that with Capuano.