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Decision time is closing in on Aaron Cook, Red Sox

04.24.12 at 12:58 am ET
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PAWTUCKET, R.I. ‘€“ Aaron Cook is seemingly forcing the Red Sox‘€™ hand.

The starting pitcher, who has an opt-out in his contract if the Sox don’€™t promote him from Triple-A by May 1, continued to dominate during his stint with the Pawtucket Red Sox. Monday night at McCoy Stadium was Cook’€™s latest chance to impress.

The veteran righty allowed eight hits (7 singles and a double) and one unearned run while throwing 93 pitches (62) in his seven-inning outing against the Durham Bulls. And perhaps most impressive, just four of his 21 outs came in the form of fly balls.

So what now?

‘€œI’€™ll make a decision when I feel like it’€™s time to make a decision,’€ he said after the PawSox’€™ seven-inning, 7-1 win over Durham. ‘€œI haven’€™t made a decision yet.’€

Cook actually has two opt-outs, one that arrives a week from Tuesday, with another residing on June 1 if he chooses not to utilize the first go-round.

There was some talk that Cook was intent on having a decision made, one way or another, by the May 1 deadline. But he said after his latest start that isn’€™t necessarily the case.

‘€œNope,’€ said Cook when asked if he has shut the door on extending his stay in Pawtucket. ‘€œThere’€™s no reason to.’€

It was hard to envision Cook remaining in the minor leagues much longer after witnessing his fourth start with the PawSox. His ERA now stands at 1.33, and he’s seen his velocity amp up as high as 92 mph.

But it was the location of his sinker that meant the most Monday. It was a pitch that allowed for the Bulls’€™ first 13 outs to come on the ground.

‘€œHe was throwing a little bit harder tonight than he normally does,’€ said PawSox catcher Ryan Lavarnway. ‘€œVery consistent sinker, per usual. There’€™s not a lot to say. The performance pretty much speaks for itself. Pretty much everything he threw up there they were swinging over the top of or pounding into the ground, and that’€™s what you want to see from a guy who has his kind of stuff.’€

Cook wouldn’€™t run into any serious trouble until his final inning, when he saw Nevin Ashley lead off with a double to the right-center field gap, which was followed by a walk to Jeff Salazar.

But, true to form, Cook induced a ground out to second, another grounder that PawSox second baseman Jon Hee botched (allowing for the visitors’€™ only run), a ground ball to first base and, finally, a line-out to left field.

Also of note was that twice Cook got out of innings with double play balls.

‘€œI think I’€™m right where I need to be,’€ he said. ‘€œI’€™m getting deep into games, getting that fatigue factor. Our guys are scoring a bunch of runs, having some time to sit down and having a long time between innings. Everything you could possibly need to get ready I think was in that game today. I felt like the ball is coming out of my hand good, I’€™m commanding the strike zone and I feel like I’€™m where I need to be.

‘€œI feel healthy. I feel strong. I feel my velocity is starting to come up to where I want it to be. More than the velocity is the location of my pitches, and that’€™s really the evidence that I’€™m stronger that I’€™m able to locate.

‘€œI’€™m feeling like I’€™m doing what I need to do, and I feel like the sinker is sinking. That’€™s all I can ask for.’€

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