Maybe this is the way they ease the kids in: allow the veterans to look so downright awful that no matter what the pups do, they're under no pressure.
At least they couldn't be any worse, right?
Right now, the Red Sox bullpen is in a state of flux, but you wouldn't know it by listening to manager Terry Francona. Roger Daltrey could walk right into the dugout and try to convince the skipper that the kids are all right, and he'd retort by humming a few bars of "My Generation."
If you're a member of the bullpen under 30 (and if your name isnít Jonathan Papelbon), you might be on the team, and we may even call on you from time to time, but darn it if we're not going to ignore you when we should probably depend on you. If the Sox and Twins were tied at two going into the 20th inning last night, and Manny Delcarmen was the only guy left in the bullpen, I am convinced that Alex Cora would have started the frame on the hill.
Instead, after Francona had more than his fill of some whippersnapper when Papelbon went two innings in a tie game, that was it for young, fresh arms. He went to Mike Timlin, fresh off the disabled list (which he was likely on in the first place from being overused in lieu of the youngsters), in a move nobody should really have a problem with, then Julian Tavarez, a switch that everybody should have a problem with.
Tavarez has been, let's face it, the worst signing of the offseason, and that includes punching bag Rudy Seanez. After giving up last night's game-winning grand slam, his ERA now stands at 5.83. He's given up 34 hits and walked 13 in 29 1/3 innings. That's three more walks than last night's starter, Curt Schilling, has allowed over 95 1/3 innings.
And perhaps scariest of all, the Red Sox are on the hook for his salary this season, plus another year at $3.1 million.
Last night, as Jason Kubel's slam sailed into the crowd, Delcarmen and David Riske packed up their things and figured they'd get into the next game in which the Red Sox had a 10-run lead.
There is obviously a trust issue here between Francona and the young pitchers, Delcarmen in particular. Since being recalled May 28, Delcarmen has really had just the one bad outing in Detroit, in which he allowed two runs in two-thirds of an inning. Still though, Francona refuses to use the kid any more than he might be forced to use a comb. Riske has not given up a run since May 30, but he's only been used four times this month. Tavarez has come out of the Ďpen six times, but has an 11.37 ERA for June.
How much longer can the manager and the organization baby these guys before it starts costing them games they'll regret come September? Last night was certainly one of the handful, which is growing every other night thanks to the ineffectiveness of Tavarez, Seanez, and Keith Foulke, on the DL with elbow tendonitis (after days of wondering if he'd be sidelined with an injured back). And let's be frank, Delcarmen (who earned his first career win Sunday) and/or Riske aren't going to be lights out either every time out, but each one is certainly a better option than Julian Tavarez.
`Manny's an interesting guy for us," Francona said last night. ``He's young, got a great arm. We tried to somewhat pitch him in situations where we're down a couple just to take a little bit of the heat off him. The other day, he pitched so well. If he can start duplicating that and following up with back-to-back outings, that would be great for our bullpen just because of the stuff he brings."
Funny, it sounds to me like the Sox have Delcarmen on a short leash, ready to yank him back down 95 if he screws up just once. Look at the just-recalled Jermaine Van Buren, who disappeared after a breakdown in New York last week. Despite that being just the second game he's allowed an earned run all season, he's still pitched just a measly 8 2/3 innings. Craig Hansen? Are you kidding? When he gets back here he'll be lucky to have pitched six innings by the end of August.
Meanwhile, Tavarez has perfected the job of doing what the Red Sox are so afraid these kids might do. He just makes 10 times the salary for doing it so well.