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Managing Sox staff now a shell game

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  April 15, 2009 04:21 PM

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OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Red Sox have made no formal announcements yet, but Justin Masterson looks like the probable choice to replace Daisuke Matsuzaka in the starting rotation next week. Unfortunately, because of the Josh Beckett suspension, the Red Sox now have other things to consider as well.

According to a spokesperson for Major League Baseball this afternoon, Beckett’s appeal hearing with MLB disciplinary dean Bob Watson has yet to be scheduled, meaning the Red Sox still are not sure if or when they will lose their ace for one start. (Bet on when.) For now, the only certainty is that Matsuzaka has been placed on the disabled list.

If and when Beckett sits out, the Sox will need to make another move. That would make Hunter Jones’s stint with the Red Sox quite temporary. Given that the Sox have off days this Thursday and next Thursday (April 23), don’t be surprised if they push for a quick resolution on Beckett so that they can more effectively manage his suspension. Postponing the suspension could ultimately put the Boston staff under even more duress, so the Sox might be better served to deal with the matter sooner rather than later.

Because the Sox cannot replace Beckett on the roster, the team would likely summon a replacement (other than Jones, who is a reliever) from the minors. That replacement would almost certainly return to the minors after the game, presumably for another reliever. That reliever (Daniel Bard?) would then assume Masterson’s place in the bullpen.

That is probably part of the reason Jones -- and not Bard -- is here now. Got all that?

As for Masterson’s ascension to the rotation, Francona’s intentions became clear during Tuesday’s game, when he allowed Masterson to throw 60 pitches over four innings. In blowouts, Francona typically likes to spread out the workload so that no single reliever is overworked. In this case, he clearly anticipated Masterson entering the rotation next week for Matsuzaka, whose next turn would have come up on Patriots Day.

Now, Masterson will likely get the ball.

"The idea was to get him to a point where we would at least have a decision to make," Francona said about Masterson's extended appearance.

As for Clay Buchholz, he tweaked a hamstring after pitching for Pawtucket on Sunday. Even had Buchholz been fully healthy, the Sox might not have recalled him.

If and when the Sox bring Buchholz back to the majors, the best-case scenario would have him coming up for a prolonged stint during which he would be able to pitch without the pressure of a potential demotion. Given Buchholz’s struggles last year, his development at the major league level could be at a critical stage.

Of course, this is baseball.

Which means everything is subject to change.

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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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