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Gammons on the Big Show: Cliff Lee, John Lackey and relief pitching

10.22.10 at 5:10 pm ET
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MLB and NESN analyst Peter Gammons checked in with The Big Show on Friday afternoon to discuss a number of topics, including the Blue Jays’ managerial search (which appears focused on Red Sox coaches DeMarlo Hale and John Farrell), the Rangers-Yankees ALCS, the looming fight between the two clubs for the services of free-agent-to-be Cliff Lee and the Red Sox’ pitching issues, chiefly related to the bullpen and the performance of John Lackey and Josh Beckett.

For Gammons’ thoughts on the Blue Jays managerial search, click here. Highlights from the rest of his interview are below. To listen to the complete interview, check The Big Show Audio-on-Demand page.

Can the Yankees survive tonight?

They can survive it. Phil Hughes, the one thing about his two starts in the postseason, they were so broken up. There was so much time in between. … He’s made 18 starts on normal rest, four days rest. That’€™s by far the best he pitched, never less than five innings, very consistent, he averaged about six innings a start. His stuff has looked really short to me in both his postseason starts. Maybe he’ll come out and pitch well.

But if the Yankees have to go to their bullpen, Kerry Wood can’€™t keep picking guys off every time he walks somebody, and they have no left-hander to get anybody out. Boone Logan has come in twice against Josh Hamilton: double and home run, as opposed to the kid, Derek Holland, has been just unbelievable for the Rangers. Over two nights, I think Holland becomes one of the real keys to the series.

Why don’t teams spend more on relievers? That was an Achilles heel for the Red Sox.

The difficulty is they’€™re so inconsistent from year-to-year. Arthur Rhodes made the All-Star team in the National League this year. You just never know from year to year. To invest $4-5 million into a setup guy is a pretty scary proposition. You look around at the left-handers, Holland is a starter who was made a reliever here. You look around at other teams. Javy Lopez has done a really nice job. At 43 or whatever he is, he’s finally come up with a sidearm breaking ball. But left-handed relievers are really, really tough to find. It will be really, really interesting to see next year what the Red Sox, as good as [Felix] Doubront was, do you want to put him in relief and make him a middle reliever when at 25 years old clearly he’s a frontline starter.

Will Texas play with less pressure given that Lee is set for Game 7?

I think so. Cliff is so unflappable. I had a friend of mine in Cleveland say to me, ‘€˜Where did this come from?’ This is a guy, when he was pitching for the University of Arkansas, dropped way down in the draft because he was averaging more than six walks per nine innings. People said he’€™ll never throw strikes in the big leagues. Now that’s all he ever throws.

You can just take all our computers and throw them out the window when it comes to development. Athletes sometimes just find it, and you can’t explain why. I have a good friend who scouts, was very close to Cliff coming up in the Montreal organization, he said, ‘€˜He’€™s always been this way. He finally grew into that control.’€™ He’s so strong. … His stretching process is jumping up and doing 200 pull-ups. That’€™s how he starts every workout.

Hamilton said that Lee figures out the umpire’s strike zone on a given night and exploits it.

It is a part of his game. I thought it was a great observation from Josh. You do see that. … [Pitchers] want it to be their strike zone. Umpires have their strike zone. If you pitch to it, it gives you a much better chance. Cliff obviously never throws the ball over the middle of the plate,which obviously helps. It’s fascinating to watch.

It’s also going to be fascinating to watch what he does with his money this offseason, now that he has the Texas Rangers and their $3 billion television deal and the New York Yankees lined up to bid for him. I think he’€™s going to stay here [with the Rangers]. … It’s only an hour flight for his wife. I think this is kind of a place he likes it much better than the attention he would get in New York. But I could live on the $23-25 million a year Cliff is going to make this offseason.

What did you make of Nick Swisher’s comments that he’s tired of talking about Cliff Lee?

I think he just doesn’€™t want to talk about anybody else. … I thought he went a little bit overboard. But he’€™s a little bit theatrical. Every ball on the inside corner, he jackknifes away and does a little dance. … I asked him a question, next day he came up to me and said, ‘Why’d you do that?’ He didn’t get a hit, he struck out a couple times, but he also had a great 11-pitch at-bat, which I thought might have been, alright, you’re starting to get the strike zone. I think he’d had one hit the whole series. Sometimes when a guy has a great at-bat like that, it’€™s the beginning of something good. So I said, ‘What did you take away from the game more, striking out twice or the 11-pitch at-bat?’

He thought I was ripping him. … I thought it was an opening for him to say, ‘€˜I’€™m going to be really good now,’€™ but he took offense to it. That’s Nick being Nick.

Red Sox fans cringe at the possibility that Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia could be at the top of the Yankees rotation.

It’s known that it’€™s Chuck Greenberg‘€™s first big move. …  I did find out that Chuck Greenberg is a college teammate of Wendy Selig at Tufts. … I really do think they’€™ll do anything they can to keep him. The thing that makes it difficult for the Yankees is that, unless they take the [Andrew] Brackman kid, the 6-foot-10 former basketball player from NC State and rush him, the next best free-agent pitcher on the market is now Carl Pavano. I don’t think he’s going back there again. It’s not a great winter. I can’€™t believe they’€™d ever trade for Greinke and try to have him pitch in New York. I think he’€™s better off pitching in Greenland.

Do you think the Red Sox regret pursuing Lackey last offseason instead of Lee this year?

They may. They were happy with Lackey in the second half. His quality starts were good. He pitched better. … Maybe, with a year under his belt, he’€™ll be more used to [the AL East]. And I think if Josh Beckett bounces back, that will help Lackey a lot, too.

Sometimes I felt there were minor conflicts between Lackey and Victor Martinez. I’€™m not sure it’€™s Victor’€™s fault. Lackey, I’€™m not going to say he’€™s stubborn, but he’€™s definitely focused on what he wants to do. I thought there were times when he and Victor got off on different tangents. We’€™ll see what happens next year with that.

Read More: carl pavano, Cliff Lee, john lackey, Josh Beckett
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