By Jeff Louderback
It is uncertain whether the Red Sox will add a starting pitching before Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline, but chances are they will deal from their surplus of outfielders and relievers.
Andrew Bailey, the team’s projected closer who underwent thumb surgery after a collision at first base during spring training, is set to begin a rehab assignment for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox on Monday. He could be ready to join the major league Red Sox in the next two weeks after stops at other affiliates (like Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket).
Daniel Bard appears to have regained his confidence and command at Pawtucket. Though he has a 6.75 ERA in 20 games there, he has logged four consecutive scoreless outings. He did walk two batters in his last appearance, but he did not allow a hit or a run.
An effective Bailey and Bard would give the Red Sox two power arms in the late innings to join Alfredo Aceves, who recorded his 22nd save on Saturday against the Yankees.
Left-hander Rich Hill and right-hander Scott Atchison are still rehabbing. Atchison encountered arm discomfort after Friday night’s appearance at Pawtucket, and it is uncertain when he will be ready to rejoin the Red Sox.
Even with Hill and Atchison on the DL, the Red Sox bullpen is well-stocked. Left-handers Andrew Miller and Franklin Morales and right-handers Junichi Tazawa, Vicente Padilla and Matt Albers are pitching well. The latter two could interest other teams. The Red Sox will need to make room for Bailey and Bard. Tazawa has options remaining, but he has a 1.17 ERA in 10 games. Mark Melancon, who was bombed early in the season and has a 6.57 ERA in his last 10 games (including two appearances when he surrendered four runs each) can be sent to Pawtucket, too.
With Bailey and Bard returning, at least one of Padilla and Albers is expendable. Boston also has hard-throwing right-hander Chris Carpenter (who was acquired from the Cubs as compensation for Theo Epstein departing) at Pawtucket with a 1.50 ERA in six outings during his rehab assignment. Clayton Mortensen, a Bobby Valentine favorite, is pitching well at Pawtucket. So is right-handed relief prospect Alex Wilson, who likely will at the latest make his major league debut when rosters expand on September 1.
The bullpen is a strength for the Red Sox – at the major league and Triple-A levels. If they can deal Padilla or Albers – or both – they could get prospects and replace them with the aforementioned options.
As for the abundance of outfielders, the Red Sox do need to be cautious since Carl Crawford’s balky left elbow could blow out at any time. Even with Crawford’s shaky health, the organization has a surplus of outfielders on the major league and Pawtucket rosters.
It would be wise to trade Daniel Nava, or send him back to Pawtucket, and recall 24-year-old Ryan Kalish. Nava has a .373 on-base percentage, but his average has plummeted to .251 after a 2-for-18 stretch. Kalish is hitting .324 with four home runs, 11 RBI and a .971 OPS at Pawtucket. Kalish is better at the plate and in the outfield and belongs in the majors.
Media reports indicate that Cody Ross is drawing interest from other teams, but the Red Sox are not interested in dealing him. Ryan Sweeney is a trade candidate, as is 36-year-old Scott Podsednik, who played well in a short stint with the Red Sox before getting injured and being stuck at Pawtucket after he recovered. Podsednik is batting .289 in his last 10 games with the PawSox.
A player who deserves a chance to help the Red Sox but for some reason rarely gets mentioned is 27-year-old Cuban import J.C. Linares. A plus defensive outfielder, Linares hit .333 at Portland and has a .324 average with a .859 OPS in 111 at-bats at Pawtucket. He represents an upgrade over Sweeney and Nava, and would give the Red Sox another right-handed bat.