Aaron Cook Seemingly Preserves His Spot in the Starting Rotation With Strong Performance

Aaron Cook Seemingly Preserves His Spot in the Starting Rotation With Strong PerformanceBOSTON –– Aaron Cook claims he wasn't worried about his rotation spot.

But in reality, the sinkerballer was pitching for his starter's job in Monday's 9-2 win over the Rangers. During his past two starts, Cook was mired in a rut, failing to advance past the fifth inning while surrendering six runs apiece.

With Franklin Morales breathing down his neck to re-join the starting staff, the pressure to perform was on Cook. While he seemingly preserved his position, Cook said he never once lost confidence.

"It didn't really pop into my mind," Cook said. "I felt like the last couple games that I had that I lost, I was making really good pitches except for like five or six mistakes with guys on. I was able to put that out of my mind and really focus down the zone."

The location was spotty early on, as Cook allowed an RBI single to David Murphy in the second inning. In the first inning, he managed to avoid trouble despite Michael Young's double with just one out.

And for the first time in three starts, Cook didn't yield a home run. Along the way, the 33-year-old matched a season-high in strikeouts with two, a notable feat since his sinkerball typically induces groundouts.

"I think that's one reason that I've been able to be successful is I'm able to have short term, forget about it and get back to what I know how to do –– bottom of the zone, change speeds occasionally and just let my defense play," Cook said.

Buoyed by the defense, Cook also aided his cause. After Nelson Cruz whacked a double in the fourth inning, the pitcher fired a pinpoint pickoff throw to Mike Aviles at second base to quash the threat.

"He also executed a perfect pickoff play," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "That was big in the game. But I thought he and [Jarrod Saltalamacchia] actually mixed up some of the pitches well. He had really good command of the outside corner tonight. He established some inside where he got them quick, but it looked like he had really good command of the outside with a little cutter and his sinker."

That command resulted in a seven-inning start, tying his second-longest outing of the season. Despite issuing three walks, Cook allowed just one run on six hits to snap a string of four straight starts without a victory.

"I think anytime I have my sinker and guys are playing defense behind me that's a recipe for success," Cook said. "I was just really focused on staying at the bottom of the zone as much as possible tonight. Even when getting guys on, just really pounding the bottom of the zone and letting the guys play defense behind me."

And the effort likely preserved his rotation spot for at least another start.

Have a question for Didier Morais? Send it to him via Twitter at @DidierMorais or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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