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Change would be a relief for Delcarmen

Jason Varitek grabs the attention of Paul Byrd after the Royals knocked the Boston starter around for five first-inning runs. Jason Varitek grabs the attention of Paul Byrd after the Royals knocked the Boston starter around for five first-inning runs. (Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / September 23, 2009

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - There was a message Terry Francona wanted out there about Manny Delcarmen, the struggling reliever who has watched his ERA rise steadily, month by month. As the manager said in his pregame meeting yesterday, “We’re not going to give up on him.

“We talked to him about this the other day. We want him to pitch well, and he’s not going to pitch better by not pitching. At the same time, you can talk about mechanics and they need to [be there]. But also if it’s not working mechanically, you almost have to find a way to not make something up, but just compete and find a way to get through it.’’

Francona proved his point in last night’s game, bringing in Delcarmen to get the final out of the seventh inning. He entered with the bases loaded, the Sox down by five. But Delcarmen did get the out, a fly to center field.

“I would have rather [Paul Byrd] got out of the inning,’’ Francona said. “I thought there was more to gain than to lose by doing that. That’s why we did it.’’

Delcarmen started out extremely well this year, allowing just three earned runs over 22 innings in April and May. But his ERA has increased each month, starting with a 0.00 ERA in April, then 3.00 in May, 4.00 in June, 4.66 in July, 5.25 in August, and a whopping 21.60 in September. This month, he has allowed opponents a .455 batting average, giving up 10 hits and getting just 11 outs.

“In the last couple outings, the consistency of his command has not been what it’s been earlier in the year,’’ pitching coach John Farrell said. “The game in Baltimore, he didn’t show the ability to make adjustments within an at-bat, as he has done fairly consistently at other times during the year. [Monday] night, again, he’s a pitch away from getting out of the inning, putting up a zero, and then a walk takes place and a mislocated fastball.

“Part of that is getting him back over the rubber and getting the timing in his delivery to be more consistent when his body is out ahead of his arm, that’s when he has missed up in the zone, and at times overcompensated. That’s where you get the balls that are pulled back on the other side of the plate.’’

Delcarmen has given up at least one earned run in four of his last six outings before last night, often costing the Sox more than just the runs. On Monday night, for example, the Sox were hoping they would get at least one inning out of him. They got just two outs, and Daniel Bard was brought into the game earlier than planned. Bard eventually took the loss.

A plan for Kelly
With no other place to stash Casey Kelly - the Hawaii Winter League was cancelled and there is no junior version of the Arizona Fall League this year - the Sox were forced to send him to the Arizona Fall League so they can monitor his progress at the plate.

Kelly spent this season pitching and playing shortstop in the minor leagues, and the plan is to get him more at-bats in Arizona.

Because Kelly is young for the AFL (he turns 20 next month), he will be on the taxi squad for the Mesa Solar Sox. There are two shortstops with priority over him, the Sox’ Jose Iglesias and the Cubs’ Starlin Castro, so it is possible Kelly also could get some time at third base.

Kelly first will go to instructional league, then head to Arizona. It’s not optimal, since there is a good chance he won’t play every day, but he could make it onto the roster because of injuries or other unforeseen events.

“We want him to continue to develop and get more consistent,’’ director of player development Mike Hazen said. “Obviously we still need to see consistency on the offensive side of the game, but it’s not normal for any player of his age, etc., I think, and the same with the pitching.

“No one day or one program or one thing is going to decide the ultimate direction that we head in.’’

The Sox plan to sit down with Kelly at the conclusion of his season, likely in early December, and discuss the plan for him. Going to the AFL gives the Sox more exposure to him as a position player.

Playing it by ear
After Tim Wakefield struggled Monday, allowing a season-high seven walks and five runs (four earned), there is no date for his next start. Wakefield is working through his normal cycle toward a start, but the Sox are in the mode where “we’ll try to pick our spots with him,’’ Francona said. “He’s aware of that. He can’t go every five days. That’s not realistic. But I don’t think he’s walking around, looking worse, which is good. But we’ve been through this with him a ton. We’ll monitor him all week.’’ . . . Victor Martinez extended his career-high hitting streak to 21 games with a single in the sixth inning, one of only two hits for the Sox. “Hitters like Victor, you’re going to see that from time to time because they’re good,’’ said Francona . . . Dustin Pedroia also extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a first-inning double . . . The Sox are 89-116 all time in Kansas City . . . The Sox set their rotation for the weekend series in New York. Jon Lester will start Friday night’s game, followed by Daisuke Matsuzaka Saturday, and Paul Byrd Sunday . . . There was no news on Nick Green’s “dead leg’’ yesterday. Green will remain in Boston this week, working out with rehabilitation coordinator Scott Waugh, then rejoin the team in New York . . . NESN has hired Jade McCarthy, a Newton native and sports anchor/reporter for WCAU in Philadelphia, as an anchor, host, and reporter. She will join NESN in January.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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