Oh, look. The bullpen is a problem.
Give Manny Delcarmen this: at least he made darn sure last night that the Red Sox would finish June with the worst American League ERA for the month by turning in a disastrous performance of such epic proportions that it's a wonder the federal government hasn't stepped in and done something about it. Admittedly, they're busy not stepping in and doing something about other epic disasters, but we digress...
Delcarmen threw 14 pitches in the eighth inning against the Rays and managed to allow five earned runs, no thanks to Ramon Ramirez, who promptly surrendered a three-run homer to Jason Bartlett upon being summoned from the bullpen. Delcarmen threw five pitches to John Jaso, walking him, and allowed four hits on the other nine he threw. He threw eight strikes. He put five men on base.
Delcarmen's line over his three outings: 1 IP, 9 H, 9 ER, 2 BB, 0 K. Egads.
After the game, Delcarmen told reporters he apparently has a boo-boo on his right elbow, which raises the question why he was brought into a 3-1 game to begin with. I mean, I understand Daniel Bard had to be exhausted after those five pitches he threw Tuesday night, and with the off-day today, I suppose you can understand why Terry Francona wouldn't want to go that route.
Sox relievers combined for a 6.14 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in the month of June, both worse than every other team in the American League, beating out the Mariners for the ERA honor by almost a half-run. Joe Nelson and Boof Bonser's resumes don't exactly help balance the scale, but Delcarmen's ERA for June was 12.96; Hideki Okajima: 6.52; Jonathan Papelbon: 5.73 (Just don't bring up the idea of trading him and promoting Bard to the closer role, lest you should be excommunicated from ever discussing baseball again by the BBWAA).
And so - surprise - it seems that Theo Epstein's top priority as the Red Sox hurtle toward the trading deadline with the second-best record in all of baseball will be the bullpen. Again.
Forgive me if I don't think Rich Hill is the answer.
According to Sean McAdam, the Red Sox have already had internal discussions about promoting Pawtucket starters Michal Bowden and Felix Doubront to aid in the bullpen. That's a start for sure. But history shows that Epstein and Co. should be buyers for an arm prior to July 31. See Wagner, Billy. Also see, but turn away quickly, Gagne, Eric.
Still, whether or not that will be the case in 2010 remains to be seen, particularly with the team probably having to acquire a position player for whomever goes to the disabled list next (I've got Marco Scutaro in the pool). And forget about the team overpaying the likes of the Royals for someone like Kyle Farnsworth. Whether or not they might for David DeJesus is another story entirely. But if you have to overpay for DeJesus, might you be able to underpay for Oakland's Coco Crisp, who is back from the DL, and a guy who would provide the outfield defense Sox fans were sold, but have yet to see?
But anyway, back to the bullpen, where chips should also fall in place once Josh Beckett returns from the disabled list and one of Tim Wakefield or Daisuke Matsuzaka go into a reliever's role. No, wait...that can't be good.
Ideally, the Sox need a guy like Bowden or Doubront to catch the lightning that Bard managed to at the major league level, freeing them up to focus more on acquiring an outfielder to provide some stability in the ER unit playing out there on a nightly basis.
Because halfway through the season, your flaws are either blatant or just staring to emerge. Luckily for the Sox, it's the latter with plenty of time to rectify.