Changes That Need To Be Made

Jose Cruz, Jr. was designated for assignment yesterday, which came as a surprise to me. Considering Trot Nixon is still around 15 days away, you would think we could use Cruz. However, the Red Sox felt that Bill Mueller’s current back issues warranted a callup for Kevin Youkilis. This should open up more playing time for Roberto Petagine as well, as Kevin Millar can play the outfield. Petagine has looked more and more comfortable at first base and this might be best for all involved, for now we can get some offense out of Petagine.
I am truly hoping Petagine goes on an absolute tear so that when Nixon comes back, we have no choice but to bench Kevin Millar. Millar can play right against lefties and spot at first base against righties. That means John Olerud might be out of a job when he comes back, and considering I’m a fan of Olerud, I wouldn’t be wild on that aspect. In addition, Olerud’s having a better year offensively than Millar, checking in at .287/.326/.448 … could we perhaps get rid of Adam Stern and have Millar be the roving outfielder? If Millar whines about it, perhaps we could just cut him. Cut the .271/.359/.373 man?
Either way, there are going to be interesting developments around first base in the ensuing weeks if Petagine can start going on a tear. If he does not, he goes back down, and we’re back to Millar/Olerud.
While we’re on the topic of first basemen, does anyone else think we could have Mike Sweeney there next year? Millar and Olerud are free agents, and we will want to upgrade the position offensively. I have to think the Royals are checking Sweeney’s contract out every day and Sweeney is becoming more and more disillusioned by losing every day. That would help fix our offensive woes as Sweeney is currently hitting .309/.348/.547. The only drawback is that he’s injury prone and is not a great defensive first baseman. But this would give us an ability to play David Ortiz at first more, something I’m pushing for. I don’t think Ortiz is that bad of a first baseman. Perhaps Sweeney 75% of the time, Ortiz 25% of the time?
We don’t really talk about it, but three first-basemen on our roster really handicaps us. You can call Ortiz a DH if you want, but teams that have outfielders as DHs have much more flexibility. We are literally carrying a DH and two first-basemen on our roster. No other team is doing that, not even the Cleveland Indians, who have 1B Travis Hafner DHing most of the time. Not even the Yankees, whose primary DH is Jason Giambi. Both Hafner and Giambi see time at first with one other 1B on the roster (Ben Broussard and Tino Martinez, respectively) and they also both have players (respectively Jose Hernandez and the recently deposed Andy Phillips) who can play first, but they can also play other positions.
We have David Ortiz as DH, rarely at first. Kevin Millar gets the bulk of the time at first, which really hurts us. Then we have Roberto Petagine who can only play first, and John Olerud as well. If we could make Millar a substitute, then we would have what the other two teams have with DHs who play 1B – one who DHs, one who plays first. Phillips and Hernandez generally stick to 1B/3B, Millar could do 1B, 3B, LF, RF. That’s good versatality, but we don’t use it and we should.
Back on topic… next year, Sweeney and Ortiz could split time at first, giving us two 1Bs on the roster, and that extra roster spot could be used for Kevin Youkilis, instead of sending him up and down like a ping pong ball. We could carry a fifth outfielder (Millar resigning with the understanding he is a bench player?) or another person up the middle, which we have sorely lacked for the past two years – it caught up to us last year with injuries, and so far has not this year. But just Alex Cora (side note: Cora has been hitting pretty well as a Red Sox. Props to him…) manning the middle? We really do need another person, a super sub. Options would include Chris Gomez, Ramon Martinez, Pokey Reese, and our own Tony Graffanino, or even Mark Bellhorn.
Graffanino went 3-4 tonight with a HR, 4 RBI, a stolen base, and a heads up play to score another run tonight. He’s pretty much started cementing himself the starting second baseman (which Francona mentioned was another reason Cora played third base – it is Cora’s job to move around) but what about next year? Could Dustin Pedroia be ready? If so, bring him up, have Graffanino and Pedroia split time. Pedroia can cover two positions, Graffanino four (1B, 2B, 3B, SS). That’s excellent flexibility there. If Pedroia is deemed not ready, you could resign Mark Bellhorn who can cover the same positions as Graffanino, and have Graffanino play full time at second.
All this musing is NOT POSSIBLE if we carry three first basemen on our roster. It handicaps us. We would be so much better off if Kevin Millar would agree to become a super-sub and have Petagine (or Olerud) and Ortiz man first. But you see, Millar may keep yapping about how he doesn’t care if he makes a ton of money and on and on, but we know (from last year) that he does not like the bench. It’s ego, and that’s hurting us.
Wade Miller. Sure, the defense didn’t help him and inflated his pitch count, but when is this guy going to stop his first inning woes? If he was locking in the first inning and falling apart later, then I would say go ahead and put him in the bullpen – but he’s not. Perhaps when Keith Foulke comes back, we can put Wade Miller on the DL, have him work through some things and slide Schilling into the rotation. That way instead of bumping Bronson Arroyo to the bullpen and having to send someone down (sure, you could send down Delcarmen, but I’m loath to break up the bullpen right now, with how well it is going) who would then be ineligible for the postseason roster, we could activate Miller after rosters expand and go from there.
As for Curt Schilling … I mention that there’s a possibility to get him back in the rotation without bumping Arroyo, as I just said above, but I don’t agree with it. I want Curt Schilling, who is obviously ready, in the rotation, NOW. DL Miller and call up Lenny DiNardo. Send Bronson Arroyo to the bullpen. Whatever, I don’t care. Schilling is ready, we need that front of the rotation ace, we need him to get used to starting, stretch out for the playoffs. We need to either do something with Wade Miller, who has the stuff but isn’t handling it or Bronson Arroyo who I think is getting by on smoke and mirrors.
Matt Clement goes tomorrow. As Lee noted in the comments to the previous entry, “Clement really has me worried, but from what I’ve seen it may just be that he’s gotten thrown off somewhere along the line. I want to see if Tek’s reputation as a pitcher’s catcher can help straighten that out. If Clement can come back with a vengeance, we have all of the sudden a much better staff.” What I said in return? “If Tek IS a pitcher’s C (as I think) then my question is: It’s been over a month. Why hasn’t it been fixed?” Let’s find out tomorrow if Varitek is on the path to fixing Clement. We are a team that can win this division handily, but I don’t trust this team in the playoffs, and we have to take steps NOW to rectify that.
We won eight straight, lost two, then won two. We’re 10-2 in the last twelve, but I don’t like what I see from this team. We need to see more. We need to see Millar on the bench. Schilling in the rotation. Clement pitching like we know he can. We need to see a number of things, or we’ll be sitting here in three months musing on what happened to a team that people have quietly said is compiled better than last year’s roster…

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