Ex-Sox are playoff players
The Red Sox aren’t part of the baseball playoffs this season, but several former Sox could have an impact in the Division Series round, which begins today, and beyond.
Derek Lowe, who won 16 games this season, will be the Braves’ starter in Game 1 against the Giants tomorrow night, and Bronson Arroyo, who won 17 the Reds, will pitch Game 2 against the Phillies. Former Sox farmhand Carl Pavano, who won 17 games for the Twins, will pitch Game 2 against the Yankees at Target Field.
Lowe, Arroyo, and Pavano are workhorses.
Lowe has gone 85-70 since leaving the Sox after the championship 2004 season, when they didn’t offer him a contract. He has made 32 or more starts every season since then, although this year he missed a start for the first time in his career when he had elbow discomfort. After a cortisone shot, Lowe won his last five starts, and he enters the playoffs pitching as well as he has all season.
Arroyo has gone 70-60 (with a 3.97 ERA) since the leaving the Sox after the 2005 season and has six consecutive seasons of 200 innings or more. He hasn’t missed a start since joining the Reds in ’06. Since late August, Arroyo has had tunnel vision, apologizing in advance on his message machine for not returning calls and saying he’s living in a log cabin in the mountains trying to focus on the job at hand.
Pavano, traded by the Sox for Pedro Martinez in 1997, was a washout with the Yankees for four years, but has rebounded nicely the past two seasons with the Indians and Twins. He went 17-11 this season, providing stability to a younger Minnesota staff.
The shortstop position will also be well-represented with ex-Sox, from Orlando Cabrera (Reds), to Alex Gonzalez (Braves), to Edgar Renteria (who comes off the bench for the Giants).
Gonzalez, who had two stints with the Sox, was discarded first in favor of Julio Lugo and then in favor of Marco Scutaro. He came down to earth offensively once he got to Atlanta after his hot start in Toronto, but he wound up hitting 23 homers and knocking in 88 runs. He hit .240 with 6 homers and 38 RBIs for the Braves in 72 games and committed 19 errors overall. But you’re not hearing complaints from Braves pitchers, who watched many run-saving plays behind them.
Cabrera, 35, is playing for his fifth team since 2004, when he came to Boston in general manager Theo Epstein’s deal of the century for Nomar Garciaparra. He committed only 11 errors and hit .263 with 4 homers and 42 RBIs for the Reds, who signed him to a one-year deal late in free agency. Cabrera has lost much of his juice as a hitter, but Arroyo often comments about what comfort he provides Cincinnati pitchers on defense.
The Giants also have a piece of the Red Sox past in Freddy Sanchez, who was traded to Pittsburgh on July 31, 2003, for Jeff Suppan. The 2006 National League batting champion, Sanchez shook off an early injury this season and hit .292.
Former Sox reliever Ramon Ramirez pitched 25 games for the Giants after he came over in a July 31 deal. He had a 0.67 ERA with a 0.889 WHIP in 27 innings. Ex-Sox lefty Javier Lopez was also an effective situational reliever for the Giants.
The Rays, of course, will have former Sox outfielder Rocco Baldelli on their playoff roster (Gabe Kapler is injured). He will come off the bench, with the possibility he could be used as a righthanded designated hitter. First baseman Carlos Pena, who spent 18 games with the Sox in 2006, hit only .196 this season, but he had 28 homers and 84 RBIs.
Former Sox sub Eric Hinske, who has become the human good luck charm because every team he plays for seems to make the playoffs, has provided big-time sock off the Braves’ bench. Hinske hit 11 homers and knocked in 51 runs in 281 at-bats.
Closer Billy Wagner and setup man Takashi Saito, both of whom pitched for the Sox last season, man the back of the Braves’ bullpen. Wagner had a phenomenal season (7-2, 1.43 ERA), which will be his last. Wagner joined the Sox in late August last season and was a very effective setup man. But he wanted a chance to be a closer again and elected to leave as a free agent and go to Atlanta, where he saved 37 games. Saito was effective until he suffered from shoulder discomfort at the end of the season.
Other ex-Sox players who could see action off the bench are Tampa Bay catcher Kelly Shoppach, and Texas’s David Murphy, who filled in so ably for Josh Hamilton in September, and overall hit .291 with 12 homers, 65 RBIs, and 14 steals in addition to playing very good defense.
Situational lefties J.C. Romero (Phillies) and Darren Oliver (Rangers) also could make appearances.
Which ex-Sox will have the greatest impact?
Best guess here is Pavano, who has to be terribly motivated to beat his old club. If Arroyo can beat the Phillies’ Roy Oswalt in Game 2, that would be huge for the Reds.
No current Red Sox in this postseason, but plenty of ex-Sox, who had some pretty nice moments in a Boston uniform.