Last night was the much anticipated first start of former set-up man, Daniel Bard. In 5.0 Innings, Bard gave up 5 Runs (all earned) on 8 Hits while Striking Out 6 and Walking 1. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible performance for your 5th starter, especially since it was his first start in the MLB. But it was what happened after Bard left the game that is the main cause for concern early in this 2012 season.
After a 1-2-3 fifth inning, Bard came out for the sixth with the Sox down, but in striking distance at a 3-1 deficit. Bard’s only walk of the outing came to lead-off man, Edwin Encarnacion, who promptly stole 2nd and then advanced to 3rd on an infield single by Brett Lawrie. With Bard at 95 pitches at this point, Bobby Valentine made the move to the always interesting bullpen. Normally, this would be where we would see Alfredo Aceves step up and try to not only get out of a first and third, nobody out jam, but also pitch another inning or two. However, since Andrew Bailey went down roughly 72 hours before opening day Aceves is now in the closer’s role.
So who does Bobby V turn to in a tight spot…Justin Thomas. After Lawrie stole 2nd, Thomas walked Eric Thames, loading the bases with no outs. With Matt Albers ready in the pen, Valentine decided to leave Thomas in. Everyone watching knew what was coming. JP Arencibia singled in two runs, and Colby Rasmus hit a sac fly before Thomas could get the three outs. With now a 6-1 score, the Sox were unable to get enough back late and fell to Toronto 7-3 and dropping to 1-4 on the season.
If it’s any consolation, Valentine admitted that he should have gone to Albers when Thomas loaded the bases with no outs. But does anyone feel any safer with Matt Albers in that situation? I’m not sure there is anyone currently in the Sox bullpen who I would feel comfortable with coming in to shut the door on a potential rally. However, if the guys they have were in their correct roles, I may view things a bit differently.
This got me to thinking about how I would organize this current staff. Here is what I would do:
Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Felix Dubront, and Aaron Cook.
I think Aaron Cook is more than a suitable fifth starter for this team. He had a good spring and in his first start in Pawtucket this year, Cook threw 7 Innings of 5 Hit ball, allowing 1 Unearned Run.
7th Inning – Alfredo Aceves or Franklin Morales depending on match-ups
8th Inning – Mark Melancon (Maybe Morales depending on match-ups if not used in 7th)
Closer – Daniel Bard
Bard was not bad in his first start and shouldn’t be taken out of the rotation for it. But when your closer goes down just days before the season starts and the next best closer you got is Bard, he needs to be moved back to the pen for the time being. It sucks, but it is a necessity after seeing what happened to Aceves and Melancon in Detroit. Not only does Bard sure up the 9th, but it also allows Aceves to be a stopper in middle innings and make a spot start if need be until Dice-K comes back. As Jerry Remy pointed out a couple days ago, Bard would be the only guy in the pen with “swing and miss stuff.” Bard has also proven that he can get big-time hitters out in big-time spots, which we did not see from Melancon or Aceves over the weekend.
P.S. How good was Padilla on Sunday? He is another spot starter option; I just don’t completely trust him in tight spots yet.