Thursday, April 28, 2005

Who steps in?

Call me a fool, but I actually believed that Curt Schilling's ankle was going to be perfectly fine this year. Well, it's not. Hopefully it's not a huge disaster. In the short term, the Red Sox won't miss Schilling. He hasn't exactly been keeping them in the game when he was on the mound. In the long term, if this turns out to be serious, the Red Sox are without an ace and could be in some trouble.

So what are the Red Sox options? The next four days are already planned out. Time Wakefield, Bronson Arroyo, and Matt Clement will take the mound for the series against the Rangers. John Halama will get his first start of the year on Monday taking the place of the injured David Wells. The problem now is who goes on Tuesday? Terry Francona has already ruled out the possibility of Wade Miller. Miller is nearly complete with his rehab assignment, but will not be ready for Tuesday. He did make his first rehab appearance on April 13th and has 30 days from that date before the Sox have to activate him from the DL. That means that the Red Sox will have to find a 5th starter for one start at the least, but two starts at the most. Miller may be able to make the start on May 8th, but even if he doesn't, he'll be ready to face the Mariners on May 13th. At the moment that is going to leave the Red Sox scrambling to find a starter for one or two starts. Who gets the ball?

Lenny Dinardo started a few games in Pawtucket and did an adequate job while he was down there. He could probably manage to go out there and not screw things up too badly for five innings before handing the ball to the bullpen. It wouldn't be an ideal situation, but losing the guys you thought were going to be the #1 and #2 starters isn't an ideal situation to begin with.

Last year when they needed an emergency start they called Abe Alvarez up from Portland to take the mound. Alvarez, clearly not ready, was blown out of the water, as most of us expected. This year Alvarez is another year old and another level closer to the bigs. He's not exactly lighting them up in AAA, but he's holding his own. Another couple of emergency starts wouldn't kill him. It might even teach him a thing or two.

If the Sox were willing to grab a kid from AA who clearly wasn't ready last year, why not do it again this year? Jon Papelbon impressed the Red Sox team with his performance and attitude in spring training this year and so far for Portland he's been pretty impressive striking out 18 without walking a batter in 3 games. He likely has the mental toughness where a thrashing at the big league level wouldn't scar him for life. It might not be fair to throw him to the wolves yet, but it is an option.

If the team plans on digging into their minor league system, but doesn't want a kid they could always go with Jeremi Gonzalez. The 30 year old Gonzalez has been solid in four starts so far in Pawtucket. He has experience as a big league starter in Tampa Bay and actually had a half way decent season in 2003 before taking a beating in 2004. He's the kind of guy that you put on the mound and hope that your offense scores 10 runs. But out of all the guys in the minors he has the least to lose.

With those four options being a bit on the underwhelming side, the team could decide to have their rotation go on short rest for one start as a last resort. Unfortunately the Red Sox don't have a day off until May 12th so there would be no rest for the starters. They'd each have to go out there on three days rest and hope that Miller is ready to come back strong a couple of days early.

If I had to choose, I'd probably go with Dinardo. He has more experience than Papelbon and Alvarez and he has more talent than Gonzalez. Bring Gonzalez up to work in the pen and back up Dinardo in case he can't cut it in his start. If Dinardo can go 5 and Gonzalez keeps the team in the game for 2 then the rest of the usual suspects can come on to close out the game. Just thinking about it makes me actually miss David Wells, but it's a pretty bad time for the Red Sox rotation right now. On the bright side at least the Yankees are as thinned out and desparate as the Red Sox are...

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