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.
I know it’s still early, but Franklin Morales has earned it.
While the majority of the Red Sox starting rotation continues to search for consistency, Morales has epitomized it. And while more than half of the Sox staff has battled through injury at some point this season, Morales has remained healthy and steady throughout the entirety of the 73-game schedule.
But even more than his consistency or even his health, Morales has been stellar for the Red Sox in whichever role he’s assigned this year. So as Bobby Valentine continues his search for the leader of his staff, Morales may well be making a case to be that guy — permanently.
Three starts is clearly too a small a sample size to be offering up the figurative ace crown or making grand gestures, but Morales has been a rock for Boston since entering into the rotation as a spot starter on June 17. He hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his three starts, and maybe even more importantly, he’s decreasing the workload for the bullpen.
In each of his three starts, Morales has not only tossed more pitches but he’s also thrown an additional inning. He’s been extremely efficient each time out and has found a solid groove.
Morales threw 80 pitches over five innings in his initial start in Chicago, then tossed 86 pitches in six innings against Atlanta and was up to 109 pitches over seven in Seattle. He’s also throwing a good percentage of strikes, with nearly 72 percent of his pitches going for strikes.
In addition to the efficiency, he’s also sitting batters down at a pretty high rate. Morales has struck out nine, eight and now seven batters in each of his three starts and seems to be getting the opposition to whiff on his 95 mph heater a good deal.
Valentine made sure to recognize Morales’ extraordinary effort after Thursday’s stellar start in Seattle, crediting the reliever turned starter for his approach and effectiveness in the new role.
“He was aggressive the entire night,” Valentine said. “He was keeping his composure and looking like an incredible pitcher.”
Morales may not be able to keep up this impressive pace, but he’s certainly proven to be more than just a “spot” starter. Instead he’s shown that he’s there to stay.
The result of Thursday’s 1-0 loss to the Mariners was unfortunate, but what the Red Sox may have gained from the outing could far outweigh the impact of any one win on the year.
Sure, Morales performed well in his time out in the bullpen and he was definitely a reliable and productive member of the relief staff. But if his recent stretch is any indication of Morales ability as a starter, then his permanent place on this team should be in the rotation.
At worst, go forth with this supposed six-man rotation and see which pitchers actually come out ahead in the race. If Morales happens to be the guy that he’s shown himself as in recent weeks, then he’ll have earned his role as a starter. And maybe, just maybe, that’s where he belongs.