Ben Cherington: Red Sox will ‘keep an open mind’ on bullpen trades, but Sox might not need ‘major change’
|07.19.13 at 7:10 pm ET|
The Red Sox thought they had achieved a measure of bullpen stability just before the All-Star break. The trade to acquire Matt Thornton on the final weekend prior to the break seemed like something of an offset to the loss of left-hander Andrew Miller. But one week later, the Sox are left to confront another likely season-long loss of a key reliever with the news that right-hander Andrew Bailey has both a capsular tear and labrum tear in his right shoulder, an injury incurred in his appearance against the A’s on the final day of the first half.
The Sox had already planned to see if they could reinforce their bullpen with internal options, having called up Brandon Workman (who will start on Tuesday unless he’s used out of the bullpen before then) and left-hander Drake Britton from Pawtucket. The team added Jose De La Torre from Pawtucket to take Bailey’s roster spot on Friday. There are other arms on the horizon in the upper minors, and the Sox will try to figure out as much as they can about the group’s readiness to help.
Ideally, the Sox would like to take a homegrown approach to their bullpen shortage. But GM Ben Cherington acknowledged that he will also certainly be exploring potential trade reinforcements — something that the team was already planning on doing even before Bailey’s injury.
A brief summary:
— Cherington acknowledged that the loss of Bailey was a meaningful one, and “did move the needle” to some degree regarding the team’s trade deadline motivations.
— He believes there are internal solutions in the organization.
— He will explore trade candidates, both prior to the July 31 trade deadline and in August.
— He doesn’t necessarily foresee drastic moves. “I’m not sure this team this needs major change,” he said.
“Obviously we were counting on [Bailey] being a part of the ‘pen. And we’ve still got a little more information to gather. He may get another opinion, but he’s going to be down for some time and so, you know, the guys have to step up,” said Cherington. “I think as far as how it affects us, we’re going to give younger pitchers a chance and see what they can do. As I said when Miller went down, when a guy goes down you have to replace him somehow. You hope that the guys are already here internally, but you’ve got to keep an open mind and continue to do that over the course of the next couple days.
“You’ve got to figure out who’s pitching what roles and some new guys are going to get a chance and we’ve got a lot of confidence in those guys,” added Cherington. “At the same time we will continue to work the phones and see if there are ways to help the team from outside of the organization. Those things are hard to predict. It takes finding the right match and we’ve got a lot of good things going on this team and we’re still very confident in the guys here now.”
The Sox face a fairly compressed timetable for their evaluation. Workman has worked as a reliever before (when he was in college at the University of Texas), but until he made his appearance out of the bullpen in Seattle, he hadn’t pitched an inning of relief in roughly five years. Britton has never worked out of the bullpen. The Sox could likewise consider Rubby De La Rosa, primarily a career-long starter. In many respects, the Sox have just 12 days to figure out whether those pitchers are viable options in the bullpen going forward.
“We know the guys pretty well. Some of them have pitched in that role a little bit, some haven’t. Just watch and see how they do, see how they react. If they’re throwing strikes, composure, doing the things they’re capable of doing, that’s what you look for. It’s a transition for anyone when they get to the big leagues,” said Cherington. “We’ve got a number of guys we believe in and this creates opportunity and maybe their time comes a little sooner than we thought.”
Cherington said that he does expect some relievers to be moved by the trade deadline, and he expects still other avenues for external solutions to present themselves in August. For now, the GM said, there is clarity about which teams are buyers and which are sellers. However, he added that there could be more sellers by the deadline, and more still in August. That being the case, he suggested that he will not let July 31 dictate the team’s moves.
“We’re committed to try and help the team. The players and staff have done a terrific job putting us in this position, giving us a chance,” said Cherington. “In the front office we have an obligation to try and help if we can and we’ll try and to that in a way that makes us better but doesn’t alter for us.”
That being the case, Cherington conceded that the Bailey injury “does move the needle a little bit, but we still feel really good about what we have.”
“We have to be a little careful about altering that too much because there does seem to be a nice, competitive thing going on in there,” Cherington said, alluding to the team’s clubhouse culture. “Look if we can add to that in ways to shore up areas and strengthen areas, we’re going to work to try to do that. But I’m not sure this team this needs major change. There’s been a lot of strengths and the team’s playing well and they’ve shown resiliency and they’ll continue to do that. It’s just a balance, but the fact that we’re in it means that we have an obligation to try to help and if we weren’t in it then we’d looking at it a different way.”
— Cherington said that relievers Jose Contreras and Brandon Lyon, both of whom were signed to minor league deals on Friday, have “gentleman’s agreements” with the Sox that if they haven’t been called up by a point in August and there are better opportunities to get to the big leagues elsewhere, the Sox will facilitate those deals.
“Both guys are going to be in Pawtucket for a while. We’ll see if an opportunity presents at some point,” said Cherington. “If it doesn’t at some point in August, then if we think there’s a better opportunity somewhere else, we’ll work with them on that. But they both have an opportunity to show us what they can do, and hopefully they come in and help us.”
Both pitchers have intriguing histories with the Sox. Lyon was acquired from the Blue Jays prior to the 2003 season, briefly served as Red Sox closer that year, was traded to the Pirates at that trade deadline only to see the deal blow up and essentially reversed, with Lyon returning to the Sox, with the right-hander finally getting dealt to the Diamondbacks that offseason as a key piece in the deal that landed Curt Schilling in Boston.
Contreras, meanwhile, was part of a celebrated bidding war between the Sox and Yankees as a free agent out of Cuba in December 2002. The Sox lost out to the Yankees, who signed the right-hander to a four-year, $32 million deal.
“We finally got him,” joked Cherington.
— Cherington said that it would be up to the coaching staff to decide on the current role for Workman. However, he added that the organization still views the right-hander as a future member of a big league rotation.
“We absolutely believe he’s a starter long term, but if the way he can help the team in the short term is out of the ‘pen, then that’s what he’ll do,” said Cherington.
— Asked if the door had closed on Alfredo Aceves pitching in the big leagues for the Sox, after the right-hander was outrighted to Pawtucket off the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, Cherington suggested that it had not.
“As long as a guy’s in the organization, active and pitching, then the book is never completely closed. Obviously we felt like the right thing to do was to remove him from the 40-man because we felt like we were going to need that spot in some way,” said Cherington “We just felt like he wasn’t the right guy to take that spot. But you never close the door as long as the guy [is still in the organization].”
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