By Andy Lindberg
The Red Sox have placed John Lackey on the 15-Day disabled list with what has been designated an “elbow strain.” His stats have been regurgitated through and through since his very poor effort last week against Toronto in which he gave up nine earned runs. Fans have booed him, chastised Theo Epstein for paying for him, and have called for Lackey’s release in some, extreme cases.
I can’t abide that and in this particular case, I give the man a pass. It’s one of those cases where if you cannot, you’re heartless.
Every man, admit it or not, has his personal life at some point affect them and manifest in negative ways at times. There can be no real fault placed on Lackey for feeling the way he does. His velocity has been fine and he’s gotten good break on his off-speed pitches, but mentally, he does not seem to be in the game enough to be effective on any given start. Given his issues, the man needs the time with his family and to himself.
Moving on to the enigma known as Daisuke Matsuzaka, this is a move that should surprise few. After a string of excellent starts, Matsuzaka regressed to his ball-throwing self and has been placed on the disabled list with what was diagnosed as an elbow sprain. Getting hit square in the chest by a batted ball on the first pitch of the game in his last start against Baltimore, an 8-7 walk off win for Boston, definitely didn’t help his cause.
The frustration continues for Matsuzaka, and we need not delve into the calamity his frustrating outings have caused in the fan base and the organization.
Both hurlers are important cogs in the Boston rotation, and when healthy, both can deliver exceptional outings.
In their absence (of which Matsuzaka’s may be longer than anticipated–it always is) Boston has some fairly serious decisions to make. Fortunately for them, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett have been very good to outstanding so far this year. Tim Wakefield has already slid into Lackey’s spot and is seven wins away from 200 career wins. Felix Doubront was a viable option for the other starting slot, but he has also since nabbed the injury bug. Junichi Tazawa is just starting out after Tommy John surgery a year ago, and it would be irresponsible to throw him into the rotation at this point. Stolmy Pimentel is a very promising hurler, but he is young and needs more experience honing his pitches before he is brought up.
For those of you who are convinced Anthony Ranaudo is the current answer, I do not dignify your requests with a response. Michael Bowden will not start; rather he will provide some much-needed middle-relief in the bullpen.
It is times like these in which the Red Sox stock up on low-risk high-reward journeyman pitches and starters. I don’t anticipate a trade being made this early in the season so the issue will likely be taken care of in-house.