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McGair: PawSox's Wilson has more value in rotation, not bullpen

May 14, 2012

Alex Wilson

We’re just past the quarter mark of the PawSox’s season. Such a distinction comes with a few observations that have made an impression upon this particular observer …

If the Red Sox knew a month ago what they know at the present time, perhaps they wouldn’t have been so quick to move Alex Wilson from the rotation to the bullpen.
Taking a closer look at Boston’s depth at starting pitching compared to the relief component, the organization would have been better served to allow Wilson to take the ball once every five days for the PawSox. The so-called insurance policies behind the current band of five rotation mates is alarmingly thin, so much so that Josh Beckett better make sure to enclose himself in bubble wrap on the days he’s not slated to start.
In all seriousness, Boston should be concerned about the band of reserves on hold should anything happen to Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard. One option (Aaron Cook) is currently on the disabled list while a second (Daisuke Matsuzaka) has not exactly invoked a sense of confidence after making four minor-league starts. Luckily for Matsuzaka, he still has two more starts with the PawSox to sort things out.
With all apologies to the current lot of PawSox starters, it’s best to put down the voodoo dolls and hope that Beckett doesn’t have as much as a hangnail issue. Know how many MLB starting nods Justin Germano, Doug Mathis and Brandon Duckworth have drawn since 2009? Try three. Ross Ohlendorf has hardly been crisp through seven starts, a conclusion that could be linked to the righty still feeling his way back from shoulder woes that all but derailed his 2011 season.
Still feel it was the right call to relocate Wilson to the ‘pen?
At the exact moment of what boiled down to a need-based conversion, Boston’s relief staff was in dire straits and owners of the worst ERA in the game. As recently departed Justin Thomas admitted last week, such early-season troubles could be linked to the methods of Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.
“At the beginning of the year, Bobby was learning about us,” Thomas stated. “He came out and told us that we wouldn’t be in a specific role and that sort of stuff would iron itself out a couple of weeks down the line.”
(As an aside, Thomas’ remarks shed some light on a matter that should have been addressed during spring training, the supposed designated time to sort everything out.)
Now that Boston’s bullpen has seemingly fortified itself, it would appear that what the powers-that-be did with Wilson was nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction. Instead he’s buried in Pawtucket’s bullpen behind Junichi Tazawa, Mark Melancon and Clayton Mortensen, three guys who have already taken the mound for Boston this season and figure to get first dibs should a need arise.
Wilson has been typecast as a reliever at the next level the moment Boston selected him in the second round of the 2009 draft, but such talk is better reserved for down the line. He started the year in the rotation just like he had in previous seasons and that’s where he should have stayed. If nothing else, he was a viable fallback alternative in the event of a sudden rotation opening.
Instead Wilson sits in Pawtucket’s bullpen, his presence out there a reminder that the Red Sox didn’t think this one completely through. Had every possible angle been examined, the following conclusion would have been drawn. At this very moment, starting pitcher Alex Wilson poses more value compared to relief pitcher Alex Wilson.
***
When referring to the role of closer on the PawSox, you’re talking about an appointment-based position that can be filled depending on who’s presently the best available option. Still, you have to wonder if there’s an interesting back story behind handing the reins off to Mark Melancon due to circumstances on a couple of fronts.
The idea of Melancon heading back to Boston relatively soon isn’t going to happen until injuries/ineffectiveness grip anyone associated with the current big-league relief arrangement. There’s simply no clear-cut corresponding move that would pave the way for him to resume major-league duty without the Sox first placing someone on waivers.
In order to keep Melancon engaged while he continues to bide his time, perhaps the best tactic to take was to name him Pawtucket’s stopper. Certainly it’s a role he’s familiar with as the 27-year-old Melancon saved 20 games for Houston in 2011.
“I really enjoy that role and I’m comfortable there,” stated Melancon, who has collected a save in each of his last three appearances with the PawSox. “I wish it was up there (in the bigs) and not here, but …”
Such a quote serves as a perfect transition to the second point regarding Melancon closing games. Andrew Bailey (thumb) remains on target to return in July, discounting some sort of setback. The current incumbent (Alfredo Aceves) continues to go through on-the-job training, meaning there’s going to be ebbs and flows.
If Bailey doesn’t come back and Aceves slips to the point that a change is warranted, BoSox fans may have no choice but to warm up to the idea of Melancon closing in Boston. Until such a scenario come to fruition, it’s best to take comfort in knowing Melancon continues to fine-tune his closer’s craft in the minors.
***
For some strange and unbeknown reason, weekends never counted toward a player’s time on waivers. The explanation provided was that on weekends, players were next to impossible to get in contact with, so it seemed best for all involved parties to place everything on hold until the next business day.
Of course, we’ve been living in an age of text messaging and other forms of instant communication for quite a while now, so why weekends were never recognized until this season speaks volumes of how grossly behind the times baseball truly is when updating the guidelines for players residing in baseball’s version of limbo.
To put this new wrinkle into proper context, let’s examine the situation involving Justin Thomas, the lefty reliever who was designated for assignment last Thursday. Had the Yankees not claimed him Friday, he would have been eligible to return to the PawSox as early as Sunday. Under the old practice, Thomas would have been forced to wait until Tuesday.

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