Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Free Keith Foulke

Those are three words I never thought I'd utter after Foulke went on the DL last month. I mean, by the time the guy was forced to have knee surgery, his ERA was somewhere north of the number of hot dogs David Wells likes to eat before a routine start (6). Fast forward a few weeks and the bullpen -- at least the closer position -- looks just as bad (and maybe worse) than before Foulke took his little vacation.

Monday night I was watching the Steelers first pre-season game, which by all accounts, was a pretty enjoyable experience. I was unlucky enough to catch the bottom of the ninth inning of the Tigers - Red Sox game, however. Schilling came in during the bottom of the eight, promptly got a strikeout, came back out for the ninth, and quicker than Kevin Millar can hit into a rally killing double play, Schilling proceeded to get shelled. And the Sox lost in Foulke-like fashion (2005 version).

Truth be told, Schilling losing a game wouldn't be that big a deal if it wasn't for the pesky little fact that he was pretty shaky during the weekend series against the White Sox. The guy's not afraid to give up a few jacks before he finally decides to start pitching. And if this philosophy holds when he returns to the rotation, he'll still get rocked.

Anyway, the Red Sox were able to slug their way to victory Tuesday night against the Tigers and if I'm a Detroit fan I blame the loss squarely on manager Alan Trammell. Inexplicably, he removed pitcher Nate Robertson after eight innings of some of the best pitching I've seen against the Sox this season from a guy not named Rodrigo Lopez. Not only that, but Roberson had only thrown 91 pitches when he was replaced.
IP   H   R   ER  BB  SO  HR  ERA
8.0 2 2 2 3 5 1 4.00
Not bad for a guy wearing Rec Specs, but apparently not good enough to let him finish the game. When he left, the Sox were down 3-2 with three outs to go. They tied it in the ninth with an Ortiz moon shot, and piled on seven more runs in the 10th when both Ortiz and Varitek hit bombs.

Given that Boston had a seven run lead and needed only three outs, Francona brought in the newest bullpen addition, Mike Remlinger. I have my suspicions about this guy. I'm pretty sure if someone peeled back his face a la Mission Impossible, you'd find Alan Embree. Except Remlinger's performance Tuesday night was so bad it would actually be unfair to compare Embree to this guy. After getting two quick outs, Remlinger loaded the bases, and then gave up a grand slam to a guy that was actually wearing a microphone (Chris Monroe was miked up for the local Detroit FSN telecast).

I usually try to avoid the role of maniacal, reactionary sports fan guy (that's what my buddy Desmond's for), but I tend to agree with Eric Wilbur on the current state of the bullpen:
For all the many problems in the bullpen, so much might be fixed by inserting Timlin as the closer until Foulke returns. And if Foulke isn't effective, keep Timlin in the role. Enough about egos and what job someone was promised. How about if you do it best, you keep it. How novel.


Tell you what, we all owe Johnny Damon, Tim Wakefield, and anyone else who doubted this little experiment from the get-go an apology. Schilling belongs in the rotation and Timlin deserves the chance to close. Bradford can remain the setup man. Mike Remlinger can … well, until he gets an out, we have to reserve judgment.
Well, Remlinger did get some people out Tuesday, but those outs were sandwiched between about 1,000 feet of base hits. Anyway, I wouldn't mind Timlin getting a chance to close games, at least until he proves he's actually the least attractive option among those guys Francona thinks can effectively close games. At this point, I wouldn't be upset if Olerud got a chance to close games if I knew he could get people out.

Speaking of Olerud, he's scheduled to come off the DL today, which means that Roberto Petagine will probably be headed for Pawtucket. It's too bad that Roberto Petagine isn't Spanish for "Kevin Millar." Whatever the case, I thought this was interesting:
Olerud has been hitting in the cage for about 10 days and took live batting practice at Fenway during the homestand.

He's been running the bases, but not at full speed. Still, he doesn't expect any issues because he never figured to need a full 15 days of rest.

''Being on the DL was the conservative move and gave me an extra few days to rest," he said.
On the surface, there really is nothing interesting about these comments. The reason they caught my eye was because when Rafael Palmeiro returned from his unexpected 10-game steroid suspension, he didn't immediately start because, as he put it, he "needed a few days to get his timing back ... hitting batting practice fastballs was one thing, but offspeed pitches were different."

Whatever. Unless all that is a euphemism for, "I'm really embarrassed because (a) I lied about taking illegal drugs, and (b) I still have this dopey mustache," I don't believe Palmeiro for a second. The only thing more ridiculous than the whole Palmeiro incident is the fact that Sammy Sosa hasn't been suspended yet. Does anyone else think it's kinda odd that this guy dropped 30 lbs., all of a sudden can't hit the ball out of the infield, and is striking out at a Bellhornian pace? I'm not exaggerating when I say that he might be one of the worse outfielders in professional baseball. Oh, good times.

Speaking of Mark Bellhorn and good times, um, well, they're not so good for him right now. He's about to wrap up his rehab assignment in Pawtucket, and that could be the last time he wears a uniform with "Sox" across it:
Mark Bellhorn could very well be designated for assignment when his 20-day rehab stint concludes Saturday. If that is the route the team chooses, it's expected that Bellhorn would clear waivers. However, even if he did, he would then have the right to elect free agency. Bellhorn is hitting .167 (7 for 50) with 16 strikeouts and 12 total bases.
There's really no way to put a positive spin on this. As much as I gave Bellhorn the business, I do feel bad for the guy. He always seemed nice enough, but he really struggled with making contact. And when he would string together a few hits, he invariably would boot a couple of ground balls. Anyway, I really can't see him coming back to the Sox. Tony Graffanino has been doing a solid job, and while Alex Cora is probably nothing more than an adequate backup, he's certainly an upgrade over Bellhorn.

If Bellhorn does get released, it really will mess up the whole "Bellhorn Watch" thing I had going during the season. I mean, that was pretty clever. You know, following Bellhorn's progress only to use his stats against him. What a novel idea. Seriously, if things don't work out with the Red Sox, and right now they look like they won't, I hope he does get a chance somewhere else and has some success. But not too much success, because I can already see Francona pleading with Theo to re-sign the guy for the 2006 season.

And one more thing. If there's one bright spot concerning the Red Sox pitching it's this: The Yankees pitching is actually worse.