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Aaron Cook pitched well again last night for Triple-A Pawtucket, allowing three runs in 61⁄3 innings.
Now, the intrigue begins.
If the Red Sox [team stats] don’t call up Cook by Tuesday, the veteran sinkerballer can trigger an opt-out clause in his minor league contract, a deal that calls for his salary to rise to $1.5 million if he’s on the major league roster. If he informs the Sox that he plans to opt out, the team would have 48 hours to placate him or allow him to become a free agent.
Problem is, at present, the Red Sox don’t have a place for him in the starting rotation. Cook has made only one relief appearance since 2003, and it’s unclear how his arm would react to that role, especially after he dealt with a shoulder problem late last season.
But pitching coach Bob McClure is increasingly confident Cook can be an effective reliever.
Herald - Decision looming on Cook
Know who I feel bad for in all this Aaron Cook drama? Scott Atchison. Because there's no way the Red Sox let Cook wak, and whether they plug him in as a starter or reliever, someone is going to have to get sent down or sent packing. And if there's one guy on this Sox squad that they have no problem jerking around, it's Scot Atchison.
Like usual, Atchison is pitching well this season. He has a 2.31 ERA with 11 K's over 11+ innings pitched. But no matter what he does on the field, he never seems to be able to hold onto a major league roster spot. So, while I have no inside knowledge of what the Sox will do, I'd be willing to bet my life savings that Atchison isn't hanging around Fenway much longer.
But back to Cook. The man just wants to pitch in the majors. If that means coming out of the pen, he says he's "open to it". You have to respect a guy that's willing to do whatever he's asked. I'll stop repeating myself, so I'll say this one last time: I still think he's most valuable as a starter. But if he can step in and give the Sox 2-3-4 solid innings out of the pen, well, we desperately need that too. If he can be that guy, bring him up!
But the Sox have a bigger problem looming: the return of Dice-K. You won't find him pitching out of the pen. Not a chance of that, and he's going to be up within the next month. I can see the Sox not bumping Bard or Doubront for Cook, but someone's going to get shuffled for Dice. Both Doubront and Bard are pitching very well, but only one of those guys can be a lights-out reliever. As Scott has discussed ad nauseum, Bard isn't going to last in the rotation all season long anyway, due to the Sox monitoring his innings. Do you just cut your losses with him now and move him down (and deal with the whining and moping that's sure to follow)? I don't know how you untangle that situation.
Unless Clay Buchholz continues to be a disaster. If he can't put together a quality start or two, don't be shocked to see him be the guy sent down when Dice comes up.
Having so many good pitchers that you don't have a spot for them all is a great problem to have. Only, the Sox don't have "good" pitchers, but mediocre pitchers with question marks and potential. Yay?
Rest of the links:
Herald - Sox ‘pen makes it right | Red Sox reach .500 behind Jon Lester’s gem | Globe - Everything is cool in Matsuzaka’s second rehab start | Lester helps Red Sox keep up the beat | WEEI - Cook allows three runs in latest outing | Sox alter course, consider Cook as reliever | CSNNE - Satisfied Lester records first win | Sox bullpen rounding into form