I Dream of Boomer
Last night I had a dream I never could have seen coming.
A brusque night at the home park, in the heat of the pennant race. A-Rod steps into the box. He's trying to lift his team out of a 2-0 deficit in the 8th. He waits for the pitch with a full count.
Big Boomer takes a deep breath on the hill. He winds up, rears his old arm back and wheels around, aided by the momentum of his great gut. A looping deuce spins off Boomer's hand and bites down through the outside edge of the plate. A-Rod admires it all the way.
BAMMMMM. The punchout is one fit to drop A-Rod to the mat. Inning over. Wells walks back to the dugout with his head down. He clears his head because that's what you have to do when you're spinning a gem.
- Then I woke up. -
And I realized, sadly, that what I had witnessed will only ever be a dream. The recent liner that Boomer took off his ailing knee gave him a deep bone bruise, and significantly lowered the chances of him ever throwing another major-league pitch. Right now, the outlook for his return is grim.
So is the state of the Red Sox rotation, after coming to terms with the fact that the man expected to bolster the back of their rotation is not going to come.
Luckily for the Sox, neither the Yankees nor the Blue Jays have been able to take control of the division lately, which has afforded them some leeway in solving the pitching problem. But it's still unresolved -- how will they do it?
There are a few scenarios.
Stick with David Pauley. He's had three starts, none of which have been won, and gave a quality outing only once. Continuing to pitch Pauley here just isn't the right thing to do. It's comparable to insisting on starting DiNardo, which the Sox eventually figured out wasn't bright either. We're not the Royals, and we're not going to get anywhere by playing like them. Pauley might be useful down the road, but now is not the time.
Go with Jon Lester. Lester made his first start last week with and pitched respectably, having to wait out a long rain delay before making his major league debut. Scouts have said that, despite being the Sox' top prospect, he's not ready to make the jump to the majors yet. Who knows, he might thrive under pressure -- these are the kind of situations that turn prospects into the real deal. But whatever the Sox do, Lester can't be rushed. Young arms just can't take the heat of the long major-league season, and the Sox should take a lesson from the Cubs on this one. Lester will be good, but if too much strain is put on his arm right now, he could get burnt out later in the summer.
Use both. Interesting idea. This would take some strain off the young arms and provide some insurance should the starter flounder early. Pauley Lester in the back of the rotation might be a nice inning-eating innovation.
Reinstate Papelbon. I supported this idea earlier in the season and still do to some degree. But especially now, the bullpen is too weak to remove Paps from it. He's the only proven stopper of the whole bunch, and until the other pitchers take hold of the reigns (which may never happen), Papelbon has to remain the go-to guy in the 9th. The Red Sox hope Craig Hansen can take over sooner than later, but he's yet to find a groove.
Start starting Hansen. He's been starting in AA for some time, and is worth a shot in the rotation. Perhaps, but not right now. For one, the bullpen he's in is especially weak. And with Pauley and Lester hanging around the rotation, they might as well go with one of those two before trying Hansen in that role. He should get a shot if the spot remains open for a while, though, if he pitches well in setup.
Get a proven starter. This option will be expensive, especially in terms of minor-league talent given up. It would likely include Lester or another of the Sox' very top farmhands. If we have a chance to trade for Dontrelle Willis or a comparable good, young arm, it might be viable (however painful) to part with good minor-league talent. The Sox should not, however, mortgage their prospects for a mediocre hurler. Lester's almost ready, so I'd rather see him propelled into the role than traded.