Editor’s note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine’s words. Each game day, we will select the best Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.
Aaron Cook‘s first start of the season in Boston ended in disaster. The 33-year-old sinkerballer had finally earned his chance to show his stuff with the big club, and an unfortunate cut on his leg suffered in the second inning sent the outing into a terrible tailspin.
Six earned runs over 2 2/3 innings in a loss to Baltimore on May 5 nearly sealed his fate in Boston. But a trip to the 15-day disabled list, some additional work with Triple-A Pawtucket and some unfortunate injuries to the Sox starters finally saw Cook’s golden opportunity reappear.
Fast forward almost two months and Cook’s finally starting to look just like the guy that the Red Sox hoped he could be when picking him up during the offseason.
On Friday, Cook (2-1) threw not only his best start of the year for the Sox but arguably his best in more than three seasons. Cook tossed a complete game shutout for the first time since May 21, 2009 — when he was still pitching for the Rockies. That outing was impressive, but he still allowed twice as many hits in that game — four — as his did in Friday’s two-hitter.
This performance, much like Franklin Morales‘ impressive outing on Thursday, isn’t alone enough to earn Cook a permanent spot in the Sox rotation. But it’s definitely a start.
Cook has shown the ability to dominate lineups over the course of his past two starts and he seems focused for every inning that he takes the mound. The results have been there for him of late — he allowed just two earned runs over five innings last Sunday against the Braves — and if he’s able to keep up this outstanding pace then it could eventually result in some tough decisions for manager Bobby Valentine.
Valentine was impressed with Cook’s outing and was pleased to see the likes of Cook and Morales both contributing for the Sox in the team’s hour of need.
“We’ve got guys who are doing what they can do to help us win,” Valentine said of his spot starters. “I’m proud of each and every one of these guys.”
Again, much like Morales, there may not be any room for Cook in the general layout of the Sox rotation. And Valentine hasn’t given any sort of indication that either would even be considered. But if Cook continues to deal at even a rate close to what he’s shown in his past two starts, then something will need to be worked out to get his arm on the hill every five days.
Cook’s sinker has looked deadly of late, even reminiscent of the one Derek Lowe sported in Boston for a number of years. It’s a mean breaking ball with the end result being a bevy of groundouts and perpetually frustrated batters. And the nasty pitch isn’t the only impact Cook’s approach can have, as on nights that he’s dealing it can help provide extra rest to the bullpen — just as it did on Friday.
He may not have the arm strength of Morales, and he’s definitely not nearly as youthful — 33 compared to 26 — but both pitchers have made great strides and are showing plenty to earn themselves a more permanent place here in Boston.