At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Thoughts Clogging the Cranial Vent

Been on the road a bit lately and have had lots of travel time to contemplate the ’06 Red Sox season to date. Here are just a few thoughts to catch you up:

• I’ve changed my mind: Jonathan Papelbon is and should remain the Red Sox closer. Originally, I agreed with Curt Schilling’s assessment that the club would be better served by receiving 200+ innings per year from the big right-hander. But it’s clear that Papelbon is no flash in the pan, and I’ve come to want him in the game every other day or so rather than every five.

• One of the reasons I now feel this way is because Craig Hansen is performing so well as a starter in Pawtucket. While I’m still concerned that the Sox may be rushing him a bit – he is, after all, only a year out of college – early indications are that Hansen may be taking to the starting role, and he could end up filling the role once envisioned for Papelbon at the back of the major league rotation.

Wily Mo Peña is another nice story in the making, and I’ve got to give him props as well for his apparent attitude and work ethic. Whereas he initially was viewed as more liability than asset, he’s had more than a few quality at-bats and has generally done well in the outfield, especially since he was switched from right to center. No one’s saying he’s a write-in candidate for the All Star Game, but he may yet turn out to be a worthy pickup even at the cost of dear, departed Bronson Arroyo.

• And how much do we miss Arroyo now! Forget the quality start he’s had to this season: his trade to the Reds, the loss of David Wells, the ineffectiveness of Matt Clement, and the relocation of Papelbon to the bullpen has reduced the number of reliable Sox starting pitchers from seven (as counted in spring training) to just three. My guess is that we’ll soon see Jon Lester arrive from Pawtucket, and while I’m not sure he’s yet experienced enough to achieve consistent success in the Show, he probably won’t do any worse than Lenny DiNardo did. And who knows: maybe Roger Clemens will end up at Fenway after all! [Note: don’t count on it.]

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