Blog Entry

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

Posted on: February 19, 2011 7:56 pm
 

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Outtakes from the Red Sox camp, and a reminder to look beneath the gaudy exterior of Boston's winter:

-- While Boston's additions of marquee men Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez got all the attention, it would be a colossal mistake to underestimate the additions of relievers Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to the Red Sox's power brigade.

"There's no getting around the fact that last year we lost way too many games, or the chance to win games, late," manager Terry Francona says.

No kidding.

For one thing, closer Jonathan Papelbon, eligible for free agency this winter, had his worst season in 2010, posting a 3.90 ERA and blowing seven saves.

For another, partly because of Papelbon's blowups, the Sox ranked 14th among AL bullpens with a 4.24 bullpen ERA. Furthermore, Boston as a team ranked 23rd in the majors in allowing an average of 4.60 runs per game.

Wheeler and Jenks maybe are under the radar to the average fan, but you'd better believe they're not around here.

"There are a lot of ways a good team can get off track and get derailed," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein told me during a weekend conversation on one of the Boston practice fields. "There is no way that's as painful as having a bad bullpen, or running out of quality guys out there."

To that extent, Epstein said, the Sox really wanted to focus on bullpen depth this winter -- and not just the first seven or eight guys, but nine and 10 deep.

"Jenks, we all assumed, was going to get a closer gig," Epstein said. "Everyone in the game thought he was going to be non-tendered, but he actually turned down a couple of closer roles to come here, which we all appreciate."

Working behind Papelbon and set-up man Daniel Bard, and alongside Hideki Okajima, Scott Atchison, Matt Albers and others, mark it down: Jenks and Wheeler will be pivotal weapons for Francona this summer.

"There's no getting around the fact that last year we lost too many games, or the chance to win games, late," the manager said. "We felt like we were going to Bard too much, or wanting to go to Bard too much. I don't think we did. But we lost games late, and then there were games that were close where we didn’t give ourselves a chance to win like good teams should.

"I think we feel like we have some reinforcements. We're a little bit deeper, and that's the hope. Because last year was difficult."

-- Jenks declined to say which clubs he turned down this winter, simply saying the chance to sign not only in Boston, but with a fully loaded Red Sox team, was too good to turn down.

"It's a great organization and somewhere I wanted to play," Jenks said. "I didn't think it would be this soon. But once the opportunity came around, I jumped on it.

"It didn't hurt that they had made all of these moves, too."

The Sox traded for Gonzalez on Dec. 5, signed Crawford on Dec. 13 and signed Jenks on Dec. 21, three days after they signed Wheeler.

After closing for the White Sox for his entire career, Jenks signed specifically to be a set-up man. But you know how things work -- if Papelbon struggles like last summer, Francona has options.

Especially if Jenks feels as good as he does right now. Struck by elbow inflammation last season, Jenks says it's a thing of the past, and various X-rays and MRIs seem to support him.

Jenks is 29, posted a career-high 4.44 ERA last year but has 173 career saves over six seasons. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract with Boston.

"I came here knowing my role," he says. "It's an eighth-inning, seventh-inning thing, a set-up role. I feel very good. Terrific. Nothing from last year is bothering me."

-- Francona on the bullpen: "We've had pretty good teams here, and I think those things have a way of evolving. ... I do know the teams that we've had here that have been really good, our bullpens have always been good. It's hard to have a really good team and not
 
Sunblock Day? Oh baby, this spring is to last spring in Florida as a day on the beach in Hawaii is to an Alaskan winter. Well, maybe that's hyperbole. But it was 85 degrees in Fort Myers today and it's been a drop-dead beautiful week. Think my neck is burnt. Need more sunblock.

Likes: The optimism of early spring in every camp. ... Lakeland. Passed through there the other day and it's like a town caught in the 1970s. Love the marquee outside the Southside Cleaners that without fail, every year, keeps cheesy sayings on its marquee. On one side this year, it read: "To err is human, to purr is feline." On the other side: "Synonym: A word you use when you can't spell the other word." ... Then, the marquee at the church down the street checked in with "A daily prayer reduces your cares." ... The gumbo and crawfish etouffee remain superb at Harry's Seafood Bar and Grill in Lakeland. ... Dairy Queen. ... Buddy Guy's performance with the Rolling Stones on Champagne and Reefer is reason alone to Netflix Shine a Light. Knockout stuff.

Dislikes: New year, new batting practice and spring training jerseys. Every chance to try and soak more money out of the fans. Detroit's are navy blue with white shoulders. What the hell? Looks awful. Cincinati's have a ridiculously large "Reds" scripted across the front. Loved Brandon Phillips' tweet in reply to a fan who asked what he thought of them: "It's NOT my cup of tea, but I'm happy to have one, though."

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well, the plane touched down just about 3 o'clock
"And the city's still on my mind
"Bikinis and palm trees danced in my head
"I was still in the baggage line
"Concrete and cars are their own prison bars like this life I'm living in
"But the plane brought me farther
"I'm surrounded by water
"And I'm not going back again"

-- Zac Brown Band, Toes

Comments

Since: Sep 21, 2006
Posted on: February 22, 2011 4:45 am
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

Yeah, but I think the point is these guys score a ton of runs.  They don't have to be THAT MUCH better in the bullpen to get back in the thick of things.  If Jenks bounces back and Wheeler is half decent, and if they finish second in the AL in run scoring again, they're going to well above their 89 wins from last year, especially since the Rays aren't going to be nearly as good, I don't think. 



Since: Mar 12, 2008
Posted on: February 20, 2011 12:34 pm
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

A 4.44 ERA for a short reliever would normally earn a guy a trip to the minors or low budget contract, not a $6M per year deal.



Since: Nov 7, 2010
Posted on: February 20, 2011 2:49 am
 

papelbon

ii really would like to see him away from boston and become a starter somewhere..i think he could be great



Since: Dec 27, 2008
Posted on: February 20, 2011 12:17 am
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

Did I miss something?  Where is the addition of these tow guys a huge upgrade?   Jenks was horrible last year and "servicable" at best the year before and Wheeler posts an ERA in the mid-3's, not terrible, but those 28 HRs allowed in under 200 IP of relief the last cpl years don't cry out "can get it done when it matters" to anyone.


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