The saga surrounding Aaron Cook’s promotion has just taken an unexpected turn. The Boston Red Sox have announced that Cook will start on Saturday in place of Josh Beckett. Cook could decide to leave the team today if he was not promoted by the May 1 deadline, but since he is now receiving a chance to start, he will be around until at least June 1, when he has another opt-out chance. Earlier today, sources indicated that Cook would be promoted, but he was rumored to be headed to the bullpen.
There is no explanation yet as to why Josh Beckett will be the one to skip a start. Beckett was solid in his last start though he did take the loss. He threw 126 pitches in 6 2/3 innings in that 4-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox, so workload could be an issue. The logical choice to skip a start would seem to be the struggling Clay Buchholz, who is scheduled to pitch on Sunday. Buchholz has been batted around thus far in the season and his 28 earned runs currently leads the league.
Whether Cook will be more than a spot starter remains to be seen. Despite the poor showing thus far, the Red Sox rotation does not appear to have many easily movable pieces. While Buchholz has easily been the worst thus far, he has a strong track record as an above average starter with an ERA+ of 113 on his career, while the veteran Cook has not have an above average season since 2009. The two least established starters, Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront are currently one and two on the team in FIP. Previous to his fourth inning meltdown last night, Doubront was the Red Sox ERA leader and he has the best K/9 rate among Red Sox starters with an excellent 10.38 rate.
Having failed call up Cook prior to the opt-out deadline, Cook could actually be forcing the Red Sox to start him. Had the team placed him on the 25 man roster yesterday, he would not be able to opt out, but the back injury to Kevin Youkilis necessitated another infielder and the team called up Jose Iglesias yesterday and Will Middlebrooks today. This may mean that Cook has demand the chance to start in order to decline his opt-out chance and stick with the Red Sox. If this is case, his one start could well be his only, regardless of effectiveness.
However, Boston will be hard pressed to take him out of the rotation if he shows he can be an improvement. The team could DL Buchholz, who apparently has been suffering from chronic blister problems to accommodate Cook. However, with Daisuke Matsuzaka also on his way back soon, Cook is probably not going to stick in the rotation past his June 1 opt out deadline unless Boston has a more serious issue with their starting rotation.