Red Sox Can’t Afford to Allow Aaron Cook to Walk Away By Opt-Out Date

by abournenesn

Apr 25, 2012

Red Sox Can't Afford to Allow Aaron Cook to Walk Away By Opt-Out DateDecision time is quickly approaching for the Red Sox.

Since heading down to the minors, Aaron Cook has dazzled in Pawtucket, going 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA. He punctuated his attempt to return to the majors with a dominant outing on Monday, tossing a complete game while only yielding one run.

If the Red Sox don't call up the sinkerballer before May 1, Cook controls his own destiny. With an opt-out clause in his contract, the 33-year-old — who is garnering interest from other clubs — could bolt from Pawtucket and ink a major-league deal elsewhere.

At this point, Cook understands his stock won't be any higher than now.

"The results are kind of speaking for themselves right now," Cook said on WEEI Radio. "I hit 92 a couple times last night. That's really encouraging to me not for the fact that I can throw hard but that I can sustain throughout the game, throw the ball where I want. … I don't know where the top [velocity] would be for this year, but as long as I'm getting groundball outs and going deep into game, that's what I'm going off of."

With the pitching struggles, the Red Sox can't afford to let him walk. From day one, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine has preached that teams simply never have enough pitching and pointed to last season's Red Sox as an example.

Going by that notion, Cook deserves a promotion soon. Despite rebounding in Monday's 6-5 victory over Minnesota, Boston's bullpen has been a liability, sporting one of the lowest combined ERAs in the majors.

Now, there are additional alternatives on the table for Cook. He could extend his opt-out clause for another few weeks or wait until June 1, the date of his second opt-out clause, to leave the Red Sox organization for greener pastures.

But the team needs Cook — and not as a reliever. As a sinkerball pitcher, his penchant for inducing groundouts is too valuable to be buried in the bullpen. Valentine and pitching coach Bob McClure acknowledged that in spring training, saying they view Cook as a starter.

It only leaves the team one other option — shift Daniel Bard back to the bullpen. It's certainly unfair to Bard, considering he and Felix Doubront have the lowest ERAs on the Red Sox starting staff.

But allowing Cook to leave wouldn't be wise. And, frankly, Bard's presence in the bullpen would bring a dose of stability, a much needed asset.

Cook brings a veteran presence. Cook adds a unique skill set with his sinker. Cook already has familiarity with McClure's style and expectations. And for the first time in years, Cook is healthy and capitalizing on the opportunity in Triple-A.

Now, it's up to the Red Sox to give him a shot back in the big leagues.

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