John Smoltz will make his Red Sox debut in the next week, which means somebody’s going to have to swallow his pride.
Unless the Sox opt for a six-man rotation, a veteran pitcher will be bounced; Brad Penny could be traded, or Daisuke Matsuzaka or Tim Wakefield could move to the bullpen.
Of all the options (laid out nicely by the Boston Globe’s Tony Massarotti), here’s hoping Wake doesn’t end up in the ‘pen.
Granted, in the past, shuttling Wake to the bullpen has always
seemed like the quick answer to the too-many-arms dilemma. Right there
on his career stat sheet, next to 186 wins, you’ll find 22 saves – a
testament to his versatility.
A quick detour here, if I may. As a cub reporter back in 1999, I recall asking then-Red Sox manager Jimy Williams about his options after closer Tom Gordon
landed on the disabled list. When he mentioned using Wakefield, I
immediately questioned the decision to put a knuckleballer in the back
end, largely because we were used to our closers throwing gas. Wake
saved the next 15 games, and Williams never let me forget it.
The lesson? Tim Wakefield is invaluable. And Jimy Williams had a little more experience to recognize it than me.
But just because Wake could seamlessly make the switch to the
bullpen this year doesn’t mean he should. Logically speaking, you’d
shift the pitcher who’s struggling the most to the ‘pen in this
Matsuzaka has been brutal. And I mean 1-4 with a 7.55 ERA brutal. He clearly has issues that he needs to work through.
If anything, Wakefield has been the glue that held together a
rotation that seemed in danger of falling apart early this year. While Josh Beckett and Jon Lester struggled their way through April and parts of May, Wake was steady (1.86 ERA in four April starts) on his way to an 8-3 start.
Patting the 42-year-old vet on the back and sending him to the
bullpen now would amount to a slap in the face, not to mention it might
actually hurt the rotation. Think about it: You feel good about
ditching Wake in favor of an uncertain Smoltz and an uneasy Matsuzaka?
Yeah, me neither.