Though it appears that Alfredo Aceves is better suited in a set-up role than serving as the closer, it appears that the Red Sox are choosing to keep in-house remedy Daniel Bard in the starting rotation.
At Pawtucket, Aaron Cook is posting impressive numbers (1.33 ERA in four starts), has May 1 opt-out clause in his contract and is undoubtedly major league ready.
The question is, “Who should he replace?”
After Wednesday, the answer is clear. Clay Buchholz had yet another atrocious start, allowing five runs, 10 hits and three walks in 5.1 innings. Once again, his velocity was fine but his command was erratic. His ineffectiveness helped the Twins trim a 7-1 deficit to 7-6 in a five-run sixth inning during a game that the Red Sox won by the same 7-6 score.
Left-hander Justin Thomas, who is one of the worst relief pitchers on a Boston roster in several years, aided the Twins in the sixth by serving up a two-run double to Justin Morneau (one run was charged to Buchholz, and the other to Scott Atchison who allowed a two-run single to Joe Mauer, the only batter he faced). Yet it was Buchholz who created the jam in the sixth by surrendering two one-out singles followed by an RBI double to Denard Span.
On the young season, Buchholz has now allowed five runs in three starts and seven in another. He was tagged for five home runs against the Yankees and couldn’t get out of the fifth inning while coughing up seven runs against the Tigers. Buchholz has consistently pitched behind in the count and has not been able to locate his fast ball or curve, and he is lacking the confidence to throw his change-up.
Ideally, the Sox would move Bard into the closer’s role and let the remainder of the pen transition into more suitable set-up roles (Aceves in the eight and Franklin Morales in the seventh, for example). Yet since Buchholz has yet to be the same with his location since returning from last year’s back injury, Bard has a high ceiling as a starter and Cook is major league ready, Buchholz should be the one to be replaced in the rotation.
Buchholz certainly would not like the assignment, but he has an option remaining, and the Sox cannot afford to let him work on his flawed mechanics at a time when their bullpen is scuffling.
Left-handers Rich Hill and Andrew Miller will soon be activated from the DL, definitely replacing the woeful Thomas and likely either Junichi Tazawa (who has pitched well but has options remaining) or perhaps Matt Albers (who would have to be designated for assignment). They will bolster the pen.
As for Buchholz, his lack of command is a concern, and Cook is a starter who can replace his ineffectiveness with deep starts and lots of ground balls with his sinker.