Monday, May 29, 2006
The loss of Wily Mo Pena will certain hurt this week when the Sox face three southpaws: Ted Lilly, Chacin (although lefties hit him better with his cutter), and Kenny Rodgers Roasters. But the anchor of the pen, Mike Timlin, is on the D.L. for the next eleven games. Without Timlin, Papelbon is the only reliever that doesn’t give me heartburn (my cardiologist doesn’t like this situation one bit either). The other members of the entire team, not only the pen, need to step up over the start of this tough stretch. The lineup can put up more crooked numbers, the starters can go deeper (Wake with a great one yesterday) and take the ball every fifth game (Wells looks like he is ready for Wednesday), and Tito can manage his bullpen more efficiently.
Papelbon is clearly the best reliever on the Sox and arguable in the American League over the last two months. In general, it has gone Foulke, Timlin and Papelbon in the late innings when the club is ahead. It is pretty conventional. Now with Timlin out, Tito should use Papelbon more efficiently. Here are some guidelines for the next eleven games:
1) Papelbon should not pitch the ninth inning when the Sox are up by three runs or an “easy save situation.” On average, a reliever with a E.R.A. of 18.00 (two earned in an inning of work) should be able to come away with the save when the club is up by three runs with three outs to go and the bases empty. It is clearly a waste of Papelbon’s talent and one of the precious 80 or so innings from the fireballer. Sure, Tarvarez, Riske, and Delcarmen will raise our collective blood pressure, but it will be worth it. A wins, a win and it will give the Sox a better shot on the next day.
2) If Papelbon did not pitch in the previous day (D1), he should go in the eighth and ninth with the score tied or the Sox up by two (D2). With an off day, Papelbon should be able to go two days in a row (D3), if the game is close in the late innings again. It is rare for three games in a row to be close late. Tito should not be overly concerned about day four.
3) This series in Toronto, Papelbon should pitch the eighth and ninth innings with the score tied or the Sox up by two in each game with Thursday being an off day. Tito should use his best reliever earlier in late and close situations as much as possible with the scheduled day off.
Papelbon should be able to handle this workload over this proposed short period of time. He is past the injury nexus at twenty-five, has “clean mechanics", is not too far removed from carrying a larger workload as a minor league starter and during the spring, was not abused in the minors due to strict pitch count limits (I saw him taken out of a game in Portland when he had a no-hitter) or in college as he was a reliever. Papelbon is a near perfect pitcher to use in the “relief ace” role and this is the right time.
Once Timlin comes back from inflammation in the shoulder on June 10th, which I am fully expecting - I play a Doctor on the internet too - Tito can revert back to his conventional reliever usage pattern. Timlin’s productivity in the eighth makes it work. Unfortunately, Tito and the Sox do not have that luxury over the next eleven. Tito, it is time for a change up.
Equal time…we hear a ton about Barry Bonds’ faults (roid rage), as we should, but little is discussed about the environment in which Babe Ruth played. This blast from the past tries to do just that.