July 4, 2010

The 'pen needs relief

Boston's bullpen has had problems, but it's questionable whether help is on the way.

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Jonathan Papelbon
click image to enlarge

Jonathan Papelbon remains the saving grace in the Boston Red Sox bullpen, but with three blown saves and a 3.71 earned-run average, he hasn’t been the Jonathan Papelbon that the team has known in the past.

The Associated Press

Manny Delcarmen
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Manny Delcarmen has gone on the disabled list with forearm stress, causing more stress for the bullpen.

The Associated Press

Additional Photos Below

Epstein said all of this without anyone mentioning Eric Gagne.

Gagne, of course, was the reliever obtained from Texas in 2007. After recording a 2.16 ERA for the Rangers, Gagne had a 6.75 in 20 games with Boston.

Fortunately for Boston, the rest of the Red Sox bullpen,which included Delcarmen, Okajima, Mike Timlin and Papelbon, came together so Gagne wasn't needed.

To get Gagne, Boston dealt pitcher Kason Gabbard, who is back in the Red Sox organization; outfielder David Murphy, hitting .266 for Texas with two home runs and 23 RBI; and outfield prospect Engel Beltre, hitting .331 in the Class A California League.

Epstein is not likely to part with any of his prized prospects, including Portland Sea Dogs Casey Kelly, Jose Iglesias and Anthony Rizzo, to name a few. But he will trade fringe prospects in a heartbeat to bolster the bullpen.

"We'll see," Epstein said. "It's an important part of the team. We have to make sure we have a good 'pen."

Other options for Epstein are to look to Pawtucket. Robert Manuel (1.54 ERA), a Triple-A All-Star, was called up last week to replace Delcarmen. Left-hander Rich Hill was just signed after he opted out of his minor league contract with St. Louis.

Michael Bowden (4.02) has been used as a reliever before. His numbers were not good earlier this year, but he's improving, giving up four earned runs in his last 28 innings.

Right-hander Robert Coello, the former catcher the Red Sox signed out of the independent leagues last year, could be an option. He began the season in Portland, was promoted and has been strong in Triple-A (2.25).

Left-handed starter Felix Doubront (2.36), could be put in the bullpen, but has little experience as a reliever and Boston may not want to gamble with his development.

Epstein thinks there are skilled relievers in the organization.

"The No. 1 way you can make your bullpen better is always to try and develop as much consistency as you can from the guys you have," he said. "In our case, we have plenty of talent out there."

But is there dependable talent? So far, when Bard and Papelbon are needed even in routs, the answer is no.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:



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Additional Photos

Ramon Santiago, Ramon Ramirez
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Ramon Ramirez, right, hasn’t been the do-all, end-all in the bullpen, and isn’t an end-of-close-game option.

The Associated Press

Hideki Okajima
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Hideki Okajima has had fine seasons as a left-hander in the bullpen but no, this isn’t one of them.

The Associated Press

Scott Atchison
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Scott Atchison has had good and bad moments with Boston, but if he and the other middle relievers can turn it around, the Red Sox could be a force in the second half of the season.

The Associated Press

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