Monday, May 23, 2011

Red Sox notes

Although he didn’t end up pitching for the Red Sox, as he was sent down in the flurry of moves surrounding the activation of Dan Wheeler and the trade for Franklin Morales, I noticed that Michael Bowden appears to have turned a corner as a reliever. He was the low upside starter who seemed destined for trade bait, but as a reliever his strikeout rate it up (10.6/9, up from 6.8/9 for his career in AAA) and his walk rate is down (2.3/9, down from 2.9/9 for his career in AAA). Those numbers indicate he could be a viable MLB reliever for the Sox, especially given how weak the bullpen has been so far this season. Since they have other pitchers who don’t have options remaining, the Red Sox will likely only turn to him if guys like Albers or Atchison don’t get the job done.

It’s nice to see Wakefield pitch well, since he’s going to be in the rotation for a bit. It’s doubly nice to see him handle the NL well, backing up my post from last year. Wakefield wasn’t striking a ton of batters out (3 K in 6 2/3 IP), but he managed not to walk anyone and got more ground balls than fly balls. For a guy who has a career ground ball percentage of 40%, that’s a nice little start.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia seems to finally be capitalizing on the promise that led him to be ranked as high as the 18th overall prospect by Baseball America and be the centerpiece in the trade that sent Mark Teixeira to Atlanta. It is a small sample size, but in his last ten games Salty has hit for a .323/.382/.677 line, with three home runs and two doubles. His hits have come at key times, including driving in the only run in the Red Sox 1-0 win over the Tigers on May 18th. The strikeouts (8 in the 31 at bats over his last ten games), mean that his batting average will come down, but even if he's hitting .250/.320/.425, Saltalamacchia will be a big step up from the catching in the first month and a half. Despite the hot bat, the Red Sox are being fairly conservative with him – his 10 game run has actually been spread over 16 Red Sox games and includes one where he was a late inning replacement and did not bat. If he does continue to hit the Red Sox will have very little choice but to give him the lion’s share of playing time behind the plate, especially with Varitek struggling with a .526 OPS, which is 52% worse than the league average.

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