Daisuke is Back; So Who Goes to the Bullpen?

Travis Girolamo

With the exception of Clay Buchholz, the starting rotation for the Boston Red Sox has been a mess early on this season. Before the 2010 regular season began, many experts believed Boston had one of the top starting rotations in the major leagues. In 2009, Josh Beckett won 17 games, Jon Lester finished in fifth place in the major leagues with 225 strikeouts, and John Lackey was the ace of an Angels team that made it to the American League Championship Series.

It is still very early, but the starting rotation has not lived up to the expectations. Buchholz has an exceptional earned run average (ERA) of 2.19 but the rest of the starters do not have an ERA under 4.70. Josh Beckett gave up eight earned runs in just 3+ innings on April 27th in Toronto against the Blue Jays. The Sox were still able to out-slug the Blue Jays and win 13-12 but Beckett’s ERA is now up to an extremely high 7.22.

Daisuke Matsuzaka returns to the Boston rotation after missing nearly a month from a neck injury. The Red Sox are hoping Matsuzaka pitches better than he did in 2009 when he had a 4-6 mark and a 5.76 ERA. Daisuke was injured at the start of last season because of arm fatigue and never seemed to get back to regular form. Red Sox management blamed the World Baseball Classic for Daisuke’s injury and did not want him to pitch in the tournament. Japan won the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic and Daisuke Matsuzaka was named Most Valuable Player in both.

Daisuke will be inserted into the starting rotation and will make his first start on Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles. He made three starts while rehabbing with the Pawtucket Red Sox. In those starts, Matsuzaka was a perfect 3-0 with an ERA of 1.62. He also threw a simulated game in Toronto on April 27th.

With Daisuke returning, it means knuckle ball pitcher Tim Wakefield will be moved to the bullpen. Wakefield was 0-1 in his four starts this season with a 5.40 ERA. There is historic significance to whether Wakefield, who turns 44 in August, will go back to being a starter. With 175 career Red Sox victories, he needs 18 more to set the club record. It will be a lot tougher to win that many games when he comes out of the bullpen. This will be the first time Wakefield will be regularly pitching out of the bullpen since Terry Francona started managing the club in 2004. Wakefield pitched two games in relief in 2003, and another two in Francona’s first year of 2004. The last time he was primarily a reliever was in 2002, when he made 30 bullpen appearances and 15 starts.

See the report on Matsuzaka here: