A few hours after a marathon loss, the Red Sox were forced to undergo a significant shift in their bullpen on Thursday morning, sending right-handers Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to the 15-day disabled list.
The decisions on the part of the organization were made in the pre-dawn hours after a 13-inning loss to the Angels that ended at 2:45 a.m. Thursday morning. Jenks felt cramping in his right biceps while warming up in the bullpen during the game. Wheeler, whose ERA soared to 11.32 with another rocky outing, apparently has a left calf strain.
Those two are replaced by left-hander Rich Hill and righty Scott Atchison, who combined to give up just four earned runs in 33 1/3 innings for Pawtucket. Both were in the mix for bullpen spots during spring training, Atchison falling short in large part because he has options and Hill because the team wanted him to get more work in with a revamped arm slot, and to give Dennys Reyes a chance.
Both knew there would be an opportunity to return at some point. Hill, for one, has said he feels better than he ever has physically. With that has come a renewed confidence in his renewed role.
"That confidence on the mound, that's one thing you can bring out there any time," said the Milton, Mass., native. "You still have that control. The other variables are out of your hands …This is a new part of my career. You're a starter and now you're a reliever. It's exciting There's a lot of things in there as far as longevity, able to be here in Boston and pitch for the Red Sox. You grow up here and this is something that you dream of as a kid."
Atchison, who made one emergency start for the Red Sox last year, is an outside candidate to take the start of Daisuke Matsuzaka on Friday, if the team needs to make a replacement, although it is somewhat unlikely. Matsuzaka got the loss in his first career relief outing Thursday morning, and manager Terry Francona is leaning toward replacing him in the opener of a four-game series with Minnesota.
Atchison went 4 2/3 innings in a start nearly one month ago. Since then, he has pitched at least two innings out of the bullpen four times.
Regardless of when and how the two are used, there is confidence they will immediately contribute.
"They both did what we asked them to," Francona said.
Jenks was the only reliever not used in the 5-3 loss that began Wednesday on time and finished nearly eight hours later. His cramping issue was revealed after the game, but the severity or significance of it remains up in the air.
"We're going to get him looked at today and get him checked out," Francona said of Jenks, whose ERA is at 9.35. "I don't think anybody thinks it's anything serious."
That's the same mindset regarding Wheeler, whose injury may fall under the tongue-in-cheek variety in the sense that the immediate need for fresh arms may have forced the decision.
Wheeler said he has not been bothered by what the calf issue, and felt nothing Wednesday night. Still, for a guy whose first month with the Red Sox has been rocky, some time off could help.
"I feel good. There's just a couple pitches here and there that I'm getting hit on," said Wheeler, making the first DL trip of his career.
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