unknown what restrictions will be placed on Papelbon's usage. How often can he pitch back-to-back games? How available will he be in a day game following a night game? How often can the Sox responsibly ask him to get more than three outs? ... Part of Papelbon's appeal last year was that he could be used in tie games, in extra innings and to work out of jams before the ninth. Should he be unable to duplicate that workload — and all evidence suggests he cannot fully — then the tradeoff [from starter to reliever] is even more complicated.I understand that the team doesn't want to lay out explicitly how Papelbon will be used -- even their honest assessment could change -- but I'm concerned Terry Francona will not maxmize Papelbon's innings and will use him "by the book" -- strictly as a 9th inning closer.
Let's say Boston has a 4-3 lead in the 8th, and the opposing team has two guys on base, no one out and some big bats coming up. If everyone in the pen is available, who should Francona call? The proper answer would be Papelbon.
We are at the likely turning point of the game. Therefore, Tito should go with his best pitcher. He should not consider saving Papelbon for the 9th inning -- worry about the threat in front of you. In 2004, down 0-3 to the MFY, Francona wisely did not manage with the idea of who to use for a clinching Game 7. He worried only about getting through Game 4, because losing that game meant there would be no Game 7.
If Tito brings in Donnelly or Pineiro or whoever into our imagined jam, and the other team takes the lead, Papelbon's opportunity for a save has gone poof. It's smart baseball (and common sense) to use Pap to get out of the jam, then have the 2nd-best arm begin the 9th inning. (Psst: This is what the "committee" idea was all about. Making the best use of your resources. (Real nutty idea, huh?))
Ideally, Papelbon's save total should be meaningless. The goal should be to make sure he works in the most important late-inning situations. Don't waste him by having him start the 9th with a two-run lead.
Will it happen? Francona:
The hard thing for me is when you commit to a guy in the eighth inning, even with one out or no outs, getting through the eighth isn't always the problem. Say the guy's thrown 20-25 pitches, now you're committed to that guy in the ninth and you're looking at a 40-50 pitch outing. That's almost like a start.Now you're committed to that guy in the ninth ... No, Tito, No! Jesus! Either Francona is playing dumb (a strong possibility, actually) or I'd better clear a spot on the table beside my TV chair on which to bang my head.
Coco Crisp's left shoulder is much better. He played for the first time since March 14. ... Hideki Okajima could be more than a LOOGY. He has thrown his changeup effectively to both righthanded and lefthanded hitters. ... Matt Clement believes he can pitch this season.
Curt Schilling on his April 2 start: "I don't want to be on a pitch count. I know I'm 40, but I don't think the ace of the staff should be on a pitch count." ... Whatever you say, Grady.
Earlier this week, Manny Ramirez chatted with MLB.com's Maureen Mullen. Then "he picked up a bat with one hand and gave his interviewer a hug with his other arm, seemingly ending the conversation. He spritzed himself with cologne and headed out to the batting cages."