If an election year is when politicians play up the embattled middle class, then the middle of the Boston Red Sox rotation should come in for special focus. The pitching is solid at the top with Jon Lester and Josh Beckett constituting a solid 1-2 punch, but the 3-4 spots are filled with questions, as Red Sox fans wonder what to expect from Clay Bucholz and Daniel Bard.
Fans may not be wondering what to expect from Bucholz, but they should. Its being casually assumed that the 27-year-old righthander will just snap right back to his 2010 form when he won 17 games and finished with a 2.33 ERA. But it can’t be assumed that his injury problems will go away. The kid did have a fractured back last year, and even if the injury stays away who can say how that might affect his mechanics. More to the point, Bucholz has yet to make 30 starts in a season, nor has he pitched 200 innings. In fact, his ’09 year was the only time he went higher than 20 starts and 100 innings. We’re assuming an awful lot to think he’ll go the entire season in 2012.
Everyone’s well aware of the question marks surrounding Bard, as he tries to make the conversion from setup man to closer. For a pitcher who relies on throwing heat that’s not an easy transition to make, and the early returns from Fort Myers haven’t been encouraging. He’s given up 15 runs in 13.2 IP. He also delivered this interesting quote on his rough outing on Sunday—““Take the five runs out of it and I feel pretty good about it.” Yeah, those runs are just an insignificant barometer of performance.
At this point, I’m just hoping the organization hasn’t messed up his career with this foolish change and sent Bard into at the kind of downward life spiral you see on the DirecTV commercials. In this case, the close to the commercial would be the announcer intoning “And when your career gets destabilized, you end up jumping on a trampoline with Joba Chamberlain. Don’t end up in a trampoline with Joba Chamberlain. Stay in the bullpen.”