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Red Sox at a loss with their bullpen

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  April 21, 2012 11:01 PM

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Here's the most startling thing about the state of the Red Sox: They have lost 30 of their last 41 games going back to 2011. That's 73 percent of their games over what amounts to a quarter of the season.

The 1962 Mets, the worst team in modern baseball history, were 40-120. They lost 75 percent of their games.

At least the Mets had an excuse, they were an expansion team loaded with old players, rookies, and rejects. The Red Sox have a $175 million payroll.

What happened Saturday at Fenway Park was incomprehensible. Felix Doubront left the mound after six innings and 99 pitches with a 9-1 lead. As a 24-year-old making his sixth career start, six innings and 99 pitches was more than anybody could have expected, especially against the Yankees.

Six relievers then allowed 14 runs on 12 hits and five walks. At one point,15 of 17 Yankee batters reached base via hit, walk, or error with 13 scoring.

"It all happened pretty quickly. It's all kind of confusing right now," Bobby Valentine said.

Nick Swisher had a grand slam off Vicente Padilla in the seventh inning and Mark Teixeira had a two-run double off Matt Albers. Alfredo Aceves was called in with a runner on first in the eighth inning to try and get a six-out save. He didn’t get a single out. Swisher had a two-run double. Teixeira followed two walks with another two-run double.

Russell Martin smacked a two-run double off Justin Thomas, the rookie lefthander who replaced Aceves. Swisher and Teixeira each had six RBIs.

Aceves has two blown saves in four chances and an earned run average of 24.00. He has failed to record an out in three of his six appearances. He couldn't throw a strike Saturday and when he did, it was hit.

Valentine was booed progressively louder each time he came to the mound to make a pitching change. After only 14 games, he has become the focus of fan angst.

Blame Valentine all you want. But it's not like he's ignoring obvious choices who could do better. A manager is only as good as the players he manages. The Red Sox have a bunch of players who simply don't belong on the roster.

"Very satisfied," GM Ben Cherington said about Valentine's job performance. "He makes the lineup out, makes decisions during the game. The players will always influence wins and losses more than anybody else, and that's no different here.

"He's doing the best he can with the roster he has. It'll get better, He knows that and I know that, and along the way if changes need to be made on the roster, that's my responsibility."

Speaking of which, you want Daniel Bard in the bullpen? He's still scheduled to start Sunday. Cherington said now is not the time to make rash decisions.

But one fairly easy move would be to bring up Aaron Cook from Pawtucket and use Bard as the closer. It would be a tough thing to do to Bard, who has pitched fairly well in two starts. But what choice to they have? Losing games because of a bad bullpen rips the guts out of a team.

As presently constituted, the Red Sox barely have a major league bullpen. Consider:

Alfredo Aceves: Released by the Yankees after the 2010 season. Pitched well last season but is miscast as a closer this year. In three of his six outings, has failed to get an out.

Matt Albers: Released by the Orioles after the 2010 season. Has allowed 26 earned runs in his last 26 innings over 26 appearances.

Scott Atchison: A 36-year-old who has shuttled between Boston and Pawtucket for parts of three seasons.

Franklin Morales: Obtained from the pitching-poor Rockies last season for a player to be named later. Has a career WHIP of 1.48.

Vicente Padilla: Before this season, appeared in 25 games over the previous two years.

Justin Thomas: A 28-year-old who prior to this season had appeared in 20 major league games. Spent last season with Pittsburgh's Triple A team.

Junichi Tazawa: Only 25, he has shown flashes but has not been the pitcher the Sox hoped when they signed him for $3.3 million out of Japan.

On a legitimate contender, only Aceves and maybe Morales have a meaningful role.

The Sox are hoping Rich Hill will be ready soon. The return of Daisuke Matsuzaka in a month would allow them to move a starter into the bullpen, perhaps Doubront.

In theory the Red Sox could have a bullpen of ...

Bard
Doubront
Hill
Aceves
Morales
Somebody else
Somebody else

... by the beginning of June. That would be a vast improvement on what they have now.

It was ugly after the game. Valentine tried to point to positives in the game, saying at one point the result shouldn't overshadow what good transpired. By the time reporters arrived at the clubhouse, only a few players were remaining.

"Not talking today," David Ortiz said. Cody Ross also walked away. Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez made hasty exits. It was scene reminiscent of last September's carnage.

Mike Aviles showed a lot of character, controlling his anger long enough to speak for his absent teammates. He also was candid.

"That shouldn't happen. We should play better all around. There's nothing really else to say. It wasn't fun. I'm sure it was fun on the other side but it wasn't fun on this side," Aviles said.

A few other notes and observations:

• Kevin Youkilis has a bruised left quad. No word on the severity of the injury. In other news, Will Middlebrooks is hitting .379 at Pawtucket with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 16 games.

• The Yankees will be .500 at Fenway Park all-time with a win the final game of the series. The Sox are 459-458-4 against the Bombers at Fenway since 1912.

• Jarrod Saltalamacchia was 4 for 5 Saturday after starting the year 3 of 29.

• The Red Sox allowed seven runs in the seventh inning and seven more in the eighth inning to blow a 9-1 lead. If ever there was a day to skip "Sweet Caroline," in favor of some decorum, this was it.

But the song played and on one of the most embarrassing days in franchise history, people sang, "So good! So good!" like they were drunk at a wedding.

It's only a song and if people want to sing, so be it. But let's forget about the notion that Fenway Park is a tough place to play and is full of hard-core fans. Because it's not any more. It's a place where people gleefully sing a cheesy song after their team blows a nine-run lead.

Nobody is singing when they home team is getting embarrassed at Yankee Stadium or Citizens Bank Park. Bruins fans weren't singing at the Garden Saturday. Either winning really matters or it doesn't. If it does, put the silly song on the shelf during games like this.

• The best news? It's supposed to rain like crazy Sunday. Not even the Red Sox can lose a rainout.

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