By Jeff Louderback
Still searching for a starting pitcher and a left-handed hitter who can play first base or right field, the Red Sox continue to assemble more rotation depth at the Triple-A level.
Last Friday, Boston acquired 28-year-old right-hander Graham Godfrey from Oakland as the player to be named later for Sandy Rosario, who interestingly was claimed off waivers by the Red Sox earlier this week.
Godfrey, who is 1-6 with a 5.03 ERA in eight starts and 46 innings at the Major League level for the A’s over the last two seasons, opened the 2012 campaign in the Oakland rotation but has yet to establish himself in the big leagues. He did post a 9-2 record with a 3.29 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in 20 games (17 starts) at Triple-A Sacramento in the hitting-friendly Pacific Coast League. Baseball America credited Godfrey with having the best control in the league in the publication’s annual tools survey. He features a mix of four pitches.
Godfrey is not the type of arm that will bolster the Red Sox rotation for 33 starts, but he does represent a viable pitcher the club can call upon for a spot start. Those type of pitchers are invaluable over the longcourse of a 162-game season.
Red Sox General manager Ben Cherington has done an admirable job acquiring pieces to strengthen the team’s rotation depth. Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront and a healthy John Lackey give the club four starters who have the potential to log impressive numbers. Much has been written about top prospects like Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster (who were acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers), and Matt Barnes. All three can eventually make an impact in the Red Sox rotation. De La Rosa has a chance to make the Major League team out of spring training while Webster and Barnes will open the 2013 campaign in the minors. The Red Sox have three other arms who could help with spot starts at some point next season.
Hernandez is a 23-year-old left-hander selected in the seventh round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Miami, where he was the staff ace. Known for his mix of pitches that are not overpowering but keep hitters off balance, he has pitched effectively at each level of the Red Sox farm system, including a 3.26 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket in 2012. Hernandez has potential as a left-handed specialist or a back of the rotation starter in the majors. He could make his Red Sox debut in 2013.
A 27-year-old right-hander from Concord, Mass., Doyle was signed as a minor league free agent earlier this month after five seasons in the White Sox organization, and a brief stint late last season in Japan. He has a 2.94 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP over those five seasons, including a 2.83 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP in 11 starts at Triple-A Charlotte in 2012.
Wright is one of the most intriguing Red Sox minor leaguers who is not considered a prospect (since he is 28). Acquired from the Indians last summer for Lars Anderson, Wright was a second round pick by Cleveland in 2006 out of the University of Hawaii. His career stalled as a traditional pitcher, so he transitioned into a knuckleballer, but more of the R.A. Dickey variety than Tim Wakefield. Wright can throw a mid to high 80s fast ball, and his knuckler has more velocity than Wakefield’s offering.
In 2012, Wright logged a 2.54 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 25 starts at Double-A and Triple-A. His mentor, former Major League knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, believes that Wright will be an effective big league pitcher sooner than later.
The Red Sox will have useful rotation depth in their bullpen if they do not trade Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves, yet it is reassuring to know that De La Rosa, Webster and Barnes are available, and especially that darkhorses like Hernandez and Wright can help in 2013.