MLB Network and NESN analyst Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Friday to talk about the Red Sox.
With Clay Buchholz pulling up lame in Tampa, Gammons said he expects the team will play it safe and put the youngster on the shelf.
“I think they’ll disable him,” Gammons said. “I just think it’s cautionary. They’ve got some time here. They’ve got an off day next Thursday. They’re probably going to pitch Andrew Miller on Monday. If Clay sits for a couple of weeks, it probably isn’t a bad thing. The important thing is how good is Clay Buchholz going to be in August and September.”
Miller’s likely insertion into the starting rotation comes at the right time, and it allows the Sox to keep Miller from going elsewhere. Gammons noted that other teams aggressively pursued Miller, perhaps crossing the line in the process.
“They want to see exactly what they have in Miller,” Gammons said. “The other night [in Pawtucket] he was 93-98, he had seven swings and misses on fastballs. He’s had three walks in his last 26 2/3 innings. If this guy is back to where he was five years ago — by far the best college pitcher in the sport — then they really have something. He’s either going to be a really good reliever or a fascinating starter. You might as well start finding out now.
“I know this: There were a lot of teams that tampered and tried to get him to do the opt-out, including the New York Yankees. A lot of teams wanted him to opt out on Wednesday. Because of his trust for the Red Sox and how much they’ve invested in him — not in terms of money but in terms of effort to just get his delivery back and be patient with him, he stayed. In some ways, their fortunate. Because I think he could have gotten twice as much money if he had left.”
Josh Beckett‘s turnaround this season has been impressive, and Beckett was never more dominant than Wednesday night, when he allowed only an infield single in a complete-game shutout of the Rays.
“He’s such a pedal-to-the-medal guy, gets in trouble, tries to throw 97. I wondered if he’d ever re-invent himself the way Curt Schilling re-invented himself. And that’s exactly what he’s done,” Gammons said.
“I remember he kept saying to me in spring training: ‘It’s about command of my fastball and my changeup. Because they both come out of the same arm slot, same arm speed, all the rest. If I’ve got a good changeup, my fastball’s going to get better.’ And all the other pitchers come off the that — the curveball, the cutter that he sometimes uses. And it’s amazing. Watching the other night … he’d get behind, 1-0, 2-0. Instead of trying to throw 97, 98, [he threw] breaking ball, changeup, curveball. He’s a totally different guy.
“I find him to be someone that I’ve had immense respect for, because it’s never been anybody else’s fault. But I never thought that he’d be able to re-invent himself that was he has. … He can throw any pitch in any count. He’s got that wonderful swagger that he had in 2007.”
Added Gammons: “He went through the oblique pull two years ago. He hurt his back on the mound in New York. He admitted to me that he also hurt his back swinging for interleague play. So, he had two years in which he wasn’t himself. But he certainly has devoted himself to being great again. He’s one guy that can carry greatness. Not many players can.”
Kevin Youkilis hasn’t produced this season as he has in years past. Gammons said the move to third base might be part of the reason.
“I sometimes wonder if it’s not his hip, from the times he’s been diving at third base,” Gammons said. “He had a couple of problems with his hip. I just wonder if he isn’t beaten up a little bit and he’s not the same. … I think at times this year he hasn’t looked the same. I think it will come back.”
Asked about the future of David Ortiz in Boston, Gammons said he expects the Sox will attempt to re-sign the slugger.
“When you consider what he means in this community, the fact that he’s recaptured his strike zone, is driving the ball,” Gammons said, “He’s not hitting the ball the way he was five years ago. Nobody at 34, 35 is going to do that. But he’s still become a very good hitter again. He’s using the whole field. He’s hitting singles when he has to hit singles. He’s hitting left-handers.
“I think there’s going to be a great deal of pressure. I don’t think he’s going to get 3-5 years; DHs don’t. We’ve seen the last couple of years, there’s been a depreciation for DHs. But he’s such an icon in this town, he’s so beloved, and he’s been so good. I never thought they’d re-sign him. I think they will now.”
Gammons also said Jonathan Papelbon has boosted his stock and might return, after being considered a goner in spring training.
“He’s back to the point of being a dominant closer,” Gammons said. “Do you want to take [Daniel] Bard and make him the closer? Or do you want to try to get Papelbon two more years and then make your decision on whether Bard starts or continues to relieve?”
Added Gammons: “I think they have to think about it, because his stuff is certainly back. His delivery is back. He’s still got that great reliever makeup. It’s hard to beat that kind of makeup.”
The Red Sox open a three-game interleague series with the Brewers Friday night. Milwaukee has become one of the top teams in the majors. Said Gammons: “I think they’re going to be there [in the hunt for a pennant],” Gammons said. “I would say that next to the Phillies, the Brewers right now are the best team in the National League.”