As he eyes his 45th birthday in May, starting pitcher Bartolo Colon hopes to be employed by a Major League team by then.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com broke the news Tuesday evening:
Bartolo Colon may be 44 years old, but he’s not done yet. According to a source, Colon plans to pitch again in 2018.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) November 8, 2017
This past season was Colon’s worst to date, as he went 7-14 with a 6.48 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in 28 starts. He began the year for the Atlanta Braves, and was released after giving up at least six earned runs in six of his 13 starts with the team while posting an 8.14 ERA. The Minnesota Twins picked up Colon shortly after, and he wasn’t nearly as awful, ending the season with a 5-6 record and 5.18 ERA in 15 starts for them.
Since his Major League debut in 1997, Colon is 240-176 with a 4.04 ERA, 37 complete games, and one very memorable home run:
Colon has pitched for 10 teams overall in his 21-year career in the bigs, and eight since 2007.
Red Sox Call Up Top Prospect Chavis
With two infielders being placed on the DL and desperate for any kind of spark they can get, the Boston Red Sox called up their top prospect Michael Chavis (MLB no. 75) from Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday.
Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez were both placed on the disabled list this week with knee and back injuries, respectively. And with super utility man Brock Holt out as well with an eye injury, Boston’s infield has become quite depleted in a hurry. Infielder Tzu-Wei Lin was recalled as well as the stumbling Red Sox open up a three game set in Tampa with a Good Friday matchup.
Boston hasn’t yet announced if Chavis will be in the lineup tonight, but the team is evidently hoping that the presence of the 23-year-old can provide some kind of a spark. Boston has struggled considerably so far in the young season and is coming off consecutive embarrassing losses to arch-rival New York. At 6-13, the defending World Series champs are dead last in the AL East.
Chavis, on the other hand, has risen through Boston’s minor league system quickly despite a setback last season. A PED suspension cost him half of 2018 after he was busted for Turinabol, an anabolic-androgenic steroid. He denied knowingly taking any banned substance but played well enough after his return to be promoted from Double-A to Triple-A.
Can Chavis provide a boost for the struggling Sox and help them shake off their World Series hangover?
Mediocre Bullpen May Cost Boston in 2019
The 2018 Boston Red Sox won a franchise record 108 games and iced the season with the franchise’s ninth World Championship, all in spite of a lousy bullpen. Closer Craig Kimbrel was the team’s only truly reliable option throughout the year and even he struggled badly at points. In 2019 the prognosis looks even worse for the staff. Boston lost two big bullpen assets this winter and hasn’t made any big moves to fill the void.
Kimbrel became a free agent after the season ended and has been reported as seeking a six-year, $100 million+ contract that would be a record for a reliever. The Red Sox and every other MLB team have made it evident that this won’t happen and Kimbrel is still available with Opening Day less than a week away. Fellow gas-thrower Joe Kelly also moved on and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, ironically who Boston defeated in the Fall Classic. Kelly was converted into a reliever in 2015 and it proved to be a good choice, as he was consistent and served as a capable bridge to the late innings
Kelly and Kimbrel’s absences leave a big hole in the Red Sox roster. It’s understandable why Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski wouldn’t want to give such a massive deal to a closer on the wrong side of 30 like Kimbrel, but not resigning the fireballer at all may prove to be a mistake for Boston, especially since Knuckleballer Steven Wright was suspended for PED usage and will miss 80 games. Wright was expected to be a big part of the bullpen since he can both eat innings and get strikeouts. Instead the Sox lost another big name, albeit not permanently.
Sophomore Manager Alex Cora announced today what the Red Sox bullpen will look like at least for the start of the 2019 season, and you wouldn’t be wrong if the first thought in your head was “average”. According to Boston’s MLB.com reporter Ian Browne, Cora’s ‘pen to start 2019 will be Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, Ryan Brasier, Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, Tyler Thornburg and Colten Brewer. While that is by no means the worst group of relief pitchers a team could throw together (pun not intended), it isn’t exactly a stellar one either, due to the massive amount of question marks surrounding it.
The first and biggest problem is that none of those players seem capable of stepping up and taking the closer’s role. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier seem to be the most viable guys if the team wants a set closer. Barnes has been with Boston since 2016 and spent most of that time as one of Kimbrel’s set-up men. He has battled consistency issues, though and has posted an ERA above three in each of the past two seasons, which isn’t exactly a selling point.
Brasier, on the other hand, was a very pleasant surprise for Boston when he was brought up from Triple-A on July 8 and proved to be very consistent. He posted a 1.64 ERA on the year and was given very important innings by season’s end and the playoffs. The only question with Brasier is if he can continue that success into the new season or prove to be a one-season wonder. After spending 2017 in the NPB, Brasier was a low-risk signing that has paid off on Boston’s part to this point. It all hinges on how he follows up.
Tyler Thornburg has shown in the past that he has the tools to be a dominant reliever, but he’s been all but non-existent since coming to Massachusetts. The 30-year-old was Boston’s return in the December 2016 deal that sent Travis Shaw to Milwaukee and Boston is still waiting for that return. Due to thoracic outlet syndrome, Thornburg missed all of 2017 and didn’t make his Red Sox debut until July 6, 2018, 17 months after he was acquired. He pitched to a 5.63 ERA in 24 innings and was not included on the playoff roster. 2019 will be Thornburg’s first full season with the Red Sox and the team is still waiting to see whether or not that December 2016 trade was a steal on the Brewers’ part. If he pitches well, Cora will put him in the big role that he was expected to fill. If he doesn’t, a designation for assignment may come a-calling.
A member of the 2013 World Championship team, Brandon Workman is one of the longest-tenured Red Sox at this point. The righty’s fast rise was derailed in 2015 when he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss all of the next two seasons. He finally returned in 2017 but has had to fight for a roster spot ever since. Workman has shown that the surgery didn’t slow him and his stuff is still very effective. However, he hasn’t played a full season since 2014 and will have to prove that he is capable of handling the weight after all he’s been through. Cora is giving him the chance, the ball is in Workman’s court.
Similar to Barnes, Heath Hembree’s problem over the past few seasons has been consistency. Hembree excels at strikeouts and handles the middle innings well, but he doesn’t do well in pressure situations, which was why he wasn’t on the postseason roster last year until Steven Wright went down. In 2018 he struck out a career-high 76 batters but posted a 4.10 ERA. Since Wright will miss half of this season, Boston will count on Hembree even more to eat the middle innings. He will have to find a way to give up less runs, even if it means cutting down on his K total.
The problem with Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson is that both are starters converted to the way of the bullpen. Both have been effective in this role over the last two seasons and can eat multiple innings when the rest of the ‘pen is spent, but neither possess dominant, overpowering stuff. You won’t see either come into the game in the eighth with the scored tied and the bases loaded. You can’t hold this against either Velazquez or Johnson, but it’s tough to deny that this bullpen lacks guys like that. Both pitchers are often called on as spot starters and this will continue, especially early this season. Boston opens 2019 on the West Coast with 11 games in as many nights.
All I can say about Colten Brewer is that I know nothing about him other than Boston acquired him from San Diego last November.
All of these guys are talented, but none of them are considered truly dominant. That’s not good enough for a Red Sox team that will compete for the AL East with a New York Yankees squad that spent the whole winter bolstering its relief core. Brian Cashman brought in a couple of big names and it would be very tough to say that the Bomber bullpen isn’t pretty darn stacked. Fellow sophomore Manager Aaron Boone will have Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino at his disposal. That’s a scary quintet especially considering all five of those guys can close. Boston won the East last season and beat its storied rival in the ALDS relatively easily, but the Yankees just might have the edge in 2019. Boston’s bullpen can be called mediocre at best, New York’s can be called an embarrassment of riches.
Will Boston end up resigning Kimbrel after all? It will be very intriguing to see how the team performs in the early going. No matter how well a starter does, every team has to turn to its relievers eventually. That may be a frightening experience for Red Sox Nation in 2019.
Red Sox Knuckleballer Steven Wright Suspended For PEDs
The Boston Red Sox pitching staff suffered a big setback on Wednesday. The MLB announced that Boston knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright has been suspended 80 games for testing positive for the performance enhancing substance GHRP-2 ( Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide 2). The blow is a major one for both Boston and Wright personally, it will be All-Star Game time before he will be eligible to return.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced over the winter that the plan was for Wright to be converted to a reliever in 2019 and serve as a middle innings specialist. Boston’s bullpen will look dramatically different this year than it did during its historic 2018 campaign. Setup man Joe Kelly left for the Dodgers via free agency and the team has walked away from closer Craig Kimbrel, who is reportedly seeking at least a six-year deal and remains unsigned as Opening Day draws nearer and nearer. How President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski will fill the void remains to be seen.
Wright, on the other hand, has struggled remarkably over the last three seasons for a multitude of reasons and his strife just got even worse. In 2016 Wright was putting together one of the best seasons by a knuckleball pitcher in MLB history when he injured his shoulder as pinch runner in August. It forced him to miss the remainder of the year and dashed his case for the Cy Young award. Things didn’t improve the following season as he was limited to just five total appearances due to a knee injury that also ended his season, this time in May.
Then things took a far more serious turn. Wright was arrested on December 8, 2017 after a dispute with his wife Shannon at their Tennessee home in which he allegedly attempted to prevent her from calling 911, though his wife and the family’s attorney have both stated that Wright never laid a hand on her. Though it can be argued that his wife threw him under the bus, the MLB suspended Wright for the first 15 games of the 2018 season after he completed a rehab assignment. His knee issues returned after he served his suspension and he missed significant time for the third consecutive season, including Boston’s run to its fourth World Series title since 2004.
Given all this, it seemed like things for the knuckleballer couldn’t get any worse. After Boston’s 6-1 loss to Pittsburgh in Grapefruit League play, Wright spoke to the media and denied knowingly taking any banned substance, but accepted his punishment.
“I respect the Joint Drug Treatment Program,” Wright said to MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out how this particular substance got into my system. At the end of the day, it falls on me to try to prevent that.”
The 34-year-old has been attempting to simply get back to square one for the better part of the past three years, and he now has an even higher mountain to climb to make that happen. Wright proved in 2016 what kind of a pitcher he can be when he is healthy, but he hasn’t been consistently since then. The suspension could prove to be beneficial in that sense, however. Since it will be July before he can rejoin the Red Sox, Wright will have plenty of time to rest and rehabilitate and that could allow his plagued knee to at long last get back to 100%.
As for Boston, the team’s bullpen is now even more shorthanded than before. Will this force Dombrowski to re-open negotiations with Kimbrel? Boston has made its intentions of reducing payroll very clear and there’s no way that the team will give him the contract he’s seeking. If Dombrowski can get him to accept a lesser deal, it would be a great signing. Boston’s ‘pen was not strong in 2018 and now looks to be mediocre at best. Cora and Dombrowski have to address the flaw if the Red Sox want to be strong once again.
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