Scott Williamson was activated from the disabled list yesterday, with Andy Dominique being sent down. While Pawtucket will now have to shift Dominique and Daubach around the diamond, this is very good news indeed for the bullpen. This seems as good a time as any to look at how the bullpen is measuring up, and why the return of Williamson is good news.
We currently have a 12-man pitching staff, and this is most likely because our bench is deeper than normal with the return of Nomar therefore eliminating a need for a bench spot (especially because we already have too many 1B/DH types) and also to safeguard against Williamson re-injuring himself. Anastacio Martinez has shown flashes of greatness and so far this season has proven himself capable of pitching well. So far, he’s done more than Malaska and DiNardo, even though the other two lefties have pitched more. When another roster spot is needed for Trot Nixon, don’t be surprised to see Malaska sent back down or DiNardo returned to the Mets. Now that Williamson is back, Martinez is relegated to middle relief/long man status. Not a bad pitcher to have in that role.
Malaska was recently brought up, to my delight. I like seeing this guy pitch. He’s a couple of successful outings away from getting his mind into the right mindset and shutting down the opposition. DiNardo’s windup in my mind is not very good, and I would prefer DiNardo be sent down over Malaska. However, the way DiNardo is pitching, you can forget the Mets acquiescing to allowing the Red Sox to keep DiNardo. Malaska’s the guy right now teetering on the brink of being the 25th man, and therefore the most vulnerable to demotion. His WHIP is a little out of control but other than that, posts similar statistics to DiNardo. Malaska is the closest thing to a lefty specialist we have.
DiNardo got a taste of pressure last night, having to deal with giving up 2 hits and having the bases loaded last night, pitching 2/3s of an inning. I was so thankful it occured. We were up by six. The worst that could happen was that he would give up a grand slam, and we’d be up by two. It was a great situation for DiNardo to be in to learn how to cope and perform under pressure. I want to see DiNardo in more of those kind of situations to know if we can rely on him in the playoffs. So far, so good. As people start returning, we will have to make decisions between Martinez, Malaska, DiNardo, and … Mendoza. You didn’t think he would be out all year, did you?
Embree, a fire-baller. Should generally be used in the 7th inning to set down the opposition and prepare for set-up men. He and Timlin provide a nice contrast in the same role – middle-inning/set-up men. This is one of the roles that was severely weakened and exposed as a weakness with Williamson out. With Williamson out, Embree and Timlin became more of set-up men. Combine that with a rough patch that the starters were going through, and the middle relief men were upbraided by Red Sox Nation by their lack of success. A lot of people were disgusted with Francona, but here’s the catch-22. First, you have starters that are not doing well. Francona would pull them, and get burned by the young pitchers shoved into the pressure-filled middle-relief roles. That didn’t work out so well, so Francona tried to get the starters through a minimum of six innings. That also didn’t work so well, so Francona was caught between a rock and a hard place. This is why I have avoided judging Francona so far. Now that Williamson is back and Nomar also, I can start really judging Francona. Right now, I would say that I am completely neutral on Francona. I will say this, though. By this point in the Grady Little regime, I was anti-Little, so that’s a good step, don’t you think? I believe Francona is here to stay.
Timlin, our most dependable reliever last year in the Dark Ages, is back for another season. He is a very good definition of a Red Sox, and I enjoy him on the team. While his WHIP is higher than last year, he is getting up there in age. However, he’s still holding the fort down and giving the Red Sox solid innings. This is one man I would want going into battle with me. What I find interesting, Timlin being a sinkerball pitcher, is the amount of K’s he has. Let’s keep it up!
Earlier, I talked about the impact of Embree and Timlin having to compensentate for the loss of Williamson. No longer, as the fireballing set-up man sets up very well for the wily Foulke. He allows a high number of walks though, and would be lights out if he kept those walks down. Williamson is going to be a great closer for some team in the future. He is a free agent after this year, and while I would like to see him back as a set-up man, it will be 100% understandable if he leaves to become a closer. As a matter of fact, that is what I expect him to do, so let’s sit back and enjoy the brilliance that Williamson is giving us. Now that Scotty is back, Terry will be able to use Timlin and Embree in situations earlier than normal, giving him more confidence in pulling struggling starters. As our bullpen stabilizes, Francona should see some of the negative voices dwindle down. Sometimes its not about the manager, but the situations.
Keith Foulke has 12 saves in 13 chances, and a SIP of 0.39. He is a relief ace, textbook. I can’t say enough about this guy, he has made what was a leaky ship into an ironclad. Our bullpen is now a strength, and it starts with Foulke and trickles down all the way down to Martinez. I would feel very confident about this bullpen in the postseason, and hopefully Francona does, too.
To go off on a tangent, Joe Aiello of the MVN Cubs will be appearing at 9:05 PM EDT, Jeff Howe (MVN Angels) at 9:35 PM EDT, and Brian MacMillan, MVN Yankees, (10:35 PM EDT) on this Saturday, June 12th, on Cleveland’s Sport Talk Cleveland 850AM, sportstalkcleveland.com. They will be joining in support of “Life’s a Pitch with Ken Detwiler Up All Night Marathon” and you can listen in on the webcast of the event here.