Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said it was the Red Sox that initiated the trade with the Chicago White Sox for left-handed reliever Javier Lopez. Epstein said that the team was intrigued by Lopez’s production at Triple A Charlotte, and after sending out a pro scout to evaluate Lopez in person, the team decided to make the deal for the submarine-style pitcher.
Epstein said Lopez features a mid-to-high 80s fastball with plus sink, an above average slider and a changeup and cutter he uses on righties.
“He’s a very uncomfortable at-bat for lefties, but he has been effective against righties,” said Epstein. “I’m sure Tito [Francona] will use him to get out good lefties, but he’s not a guy you always have to yank after a 1/3 of an inning.”
Epstein said that Riske was expendable because the team had a glut of righthanded relievers. Epstein hinted that the trade could also eventually clear room for the return of Craig Hansen.
The Sox rank sixth in the American League in relievers’ ERA at 4.29, but Epstein acknowledged that it doesn’t seem that way, as only Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Timlin have been consistent. “Behind [those two] we’re looking for someone to step up. We really need someone to assert themselves there and help Tito.”
More of Epstein’s comments:
On building a bullpen: “It’s not easy, and it’s not something we’ve been particularly good at lately. I couldn’t’ believe we were fourth in bullpen ERA, and had the best run differential from the seventh inning on heading into this [Twins] series. [That’s because] Papelbon has done an amazing job as well as Mike Timlin when healthy.”
Is Lopez another lefty specialist? “After we traded him during spring training [in ‘03], he had good start with Colorado. Then he struggled and moved to Arizona. He’s been in Triple-A since, but he put things together last year. Took a look at him to see if his stuff had changed and scouting report showed his stuff was better. His velocity is 85-90, 88 average with a plus sinker and above average slider, changeup, and cutter. [Lately] he’s been much more effective against righthanders. Tito will look to him to get lefties out [primarily], but he’s not a guy you always have to yank out of there after a third of an inning.”
“The way our pen has evolved, there was certainly a role for somebody like that right now, somebody with options,” said Epstein. “There’s some flexiblility there. In an ideal world, you’d have an 11-man staff that can get everybody out. With a lot of the attrition we’ve had, we’re just looking to get people out… He’s just below a sidearm, he’s not a submarine pitcher.”
Any news on Matt Clement? “Clement is back in Boston to be examined later this afternoon.”
Are the Red Sox in the market for starting pitching? “Absolutely we need help for the starting staff,” said Epstein. “We’re looking both internal and external. The way things have evolved with Clement’s injury, Wells, DiNardo’s injury, moving Papelbon to the bullpen. We’re preparing internal options but we’re also exploring outside the organization.”
Boston.com’s Steve Silva also contributed to this report.