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Forty percent of the Red Sox rotation is on the disabled list. Now what?

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  May 17, 2011 11:15 PM

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Within a span of 24 hours, the Red Sox placed John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list with elbow injuries. It won't be official until tomorrow with Matsuzaka.

“Obviously we’re in a little bit of a state of flux. We have some moving parts,” Terry Francona said tonight after the game against Baltimore was rained out.

Michael Bowden was in the clubhouse today and will be on the roster tomorrow. Dan Wheeler is expected to be activated off the disabled list on Friday. So the bullpen should be OK.

It sounds like Matsuzaka could be out for a while. He has a sprained elbow, which likely means there is some degree of ligament tearing. This will be his sixth stint on the disabled list in the last four years and he will be shut down for an indefinite amount of time.

“If you put a time period out there, that’s not fair to Daisuke. The doctors don’t even know,” Francona said.

Matsuzaka has shown an alarming drop in velocity and command since leaving his start of April 29 with a "tight" elbow.

“Does he have pain? I don’t think he really did, but I think he was guarded because he thought he might have pain. We figured we better check. I’m glad we did,” Francona said.

Matsuzaka was not made available to the media.

Lackey is harder to gauge because it's difficult to say to what degree he is actually injured in the first place. Francona said on Monday that is this were September, he would be pitching. And while the Red Sox deny it, there certainly seems to be a degree of this DL stint being as much a mental health break given his poor work on the mound and family issues.

In theory, Lackey could return as early as May 27.

One thing is certain, the Red Sox will need Alfredo Aceves and Tim Wakefield to give them some innings over the next two weeks. Given how poorly Matsuzaka and Lackey have pitched to date, going a combined 5-8 with a 6.69 earned run average, the Sox may even benefit from the switch.

Aceves has been hoping for a chance to start. The 28-year-old righthander from Mexico is 15-1 with a 3.14 ERA over parts of four major league seasons. He has pitched well in relief, allowing three earned runs on 12 hits over 17.1 innings.

“Why not?” he said when asked about his new assignment. “Everybody is involved in this team and this organization to try and get a championship and win.”

Aceves is an interesting character. He has some quirks and his stubborn nature rankles some people. It was part of the reason the Yankees released him. But he's a competitive guy, he throws strikes and he's eager to show people what he can do.

He wanted a chance, here it is. The same is true of Wakefield, who feels he has been wasted as a long reliever and mop-up man.

“I don’t think any team wants to go seven, eight deep, especially in a two-day period losing two-fifths of your rotation,” Francona said. “Wake has done it for a long time. Wake’s done it since I’ve been a little kid. I think we’re OK there.”

The Red Sox have won four straight games and seven of their last nine games. After a 2-10 start, they have won 19 of their last 29 games. Now the goal will be to maintain that level of play with two starting pitchers out.

“It doesn’t change anything in our view,” Francona said. “We’re going to get Lack healthy and get him back out there as quick as we can. We’re going to do the same thing with Daisuke. Until we do, we’re going to try and win with somebody else. That’s the way we always feel.”

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