It’s time to align rotation
CHICAGO - With Clay Buchholz likely not able to contribute to the Red Sox down the stretch, last night they were watching Erik Bedard pitch in Seattle, and considering deals for Ubaldo Jimenez and Hiroki Kuroda.
Meanwhile, Tim Wakefield was not only vying for his 200th career win, he was trying to maintain his place in the starting rotation after all the potential moves are made.
How did he do? Well, he’s still searching for his 200th win following a 3-1 loss to the White Sox, but Wakefield pitched a very good game - seven innings, three runs. The big blow was A.J. Pierzynski’s two-run homer in the seventh.
Wakefield hopes he can continue to man the fifth spot in the rotation. The only chance he seems to have of that is if the Sox don’t acquire another pitcher and if Andrew Miller continues to fade. But Wakefield said he’s only concerned about pitching well enough for the team to win when he’s out there.
Under normal circumstances with Boston’s lineup, he would have been able to do it. But not long before game time, Adrian Gonzalez was scratched with a stiff neck, and when a team loses its biggest offensive piece right off the bat, that changes the flow of the lineup. Gavin Floyd took advantage of the Sox’ weakened lineup, allowing three hits and one run over seven innings.
Bedard wasn’t too impressive last night against the Rays. He went 1 1/3 innings, giving up five earned runs on three hits and four walks. It was his first start back from the disabled list after nursing a sore left knee.
It would seem difficult for the Sox to make a judgment on him based on that outing; maybe all they needed to see was that he is healthy. Bedard was having a good season before the injury.
If the Sox stay away from Bedard, they’re likely to be more interested in Jimenez, who could be had from the Rockies if the Sox are willing to part with one pitching prospect and one positional prospect. It appears the Rockies are eyeing third baseman Will Middlebrooks and a pitcher, but the Sox likely would hold back on dealing Middlebrooks, even for Jimenez. The Sox appear ready to include righthander Kyle Weiland in any deal they make, but Weiland isn’t necessarily opposing teams’ first choice.
There’s often an uneasiness in baseball clubhouses as players begin to hear things the closer it gets to the deadline, which in this case is tomorrow at 4 p.m. While it appears the Sox likely won’t deal someone from their major league team, the addition of another pitcher certainly knocks the end-of-the-rotation starters down a peg. Wakefield, Miller, and Weiland all fall into that category.
The Sox have resisted the temptation to put Alfredo Aceves in the rotation permanently because they love the role he fills in the bullpen, where they can trust him with a lead or trust he’ll keep a deficit status quo. With Aceves able to pitch multiple innings, it gives the Sox quite a weapon. They’ve been searching for such a pitcher out of the pen for a long time. They also know they have Aceves to start if need be.
The Sox have resisted calling up veteran Kevin Millwood, with his fastball that’s barely reaching 87 miles per hour, from Pawtucket. The Sox don’t believe Millwood is the answer despite a 5-0 record and a 4.06 ERA in 11 starts. The Sox have told Millwood they would not stand in his way if he had another major league opportunity, but it appears Millwood believes he should stay at Pawtucket. The Sox are happy to have him there as insurance and in case they need a spot start, but beyond that?
Wakefield started out very well, holding the White Sox scoreless through five innings. In the sixth, Juan Pierre, who had struck out twice in two at-bats, laid down a bunt that he beat out for a base hit. After a sacrifice bunt by Omar Vizquel and a wild pitch, Pierre scored on a sacrifice fly by Paul Konerko.
Wakefield said he fully expected Pierre to bunt.
“I had a feeling he would,’’ the knuckleballer said. “It was a perfect bunt. If Salty [Jarrod Saltalamacchia] had fielded it, he would have been safe and if I fielded it he was safe. We had no chance to get the out. He’s a good bunter.’’
Wakefield, who is now 7-13 with a 4.92 ERA against the White Sox, was up against Floyd, who is now 6-0 with a 3.47 ERA against the Red Sox.
Wakefield said he had a lot of movement on the knuckleball, and that was evident over the first five innings. While the sixth was a minor irritant, the seventh was when the game’s big blow was delivered. After Wakefield walked Carlos Quentin to lead off the inning, Pierzynski delivered the big blow.
“I left one pitch over the plate and it was hit for a home run,’’ Wakefield said.
Last night, the Red Sox didn’t have a starting pitching problem, they had a hitting problem.
What they can’t have is the back of the rotation being erratic. They need dependability. Wakefield is certainly capable of going on quite a run. He’s done it before for long periods of time.
But the Sox may not be able to take that chance. If it’s not Bedard, it may be someone else.