Mullen on the Minors: September means roster expansion

Mullen on the Minors: September means roster expansion
August 30, 2012, 7:39 pm
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Major league rosters will soon expand, from 25 to 40 on Sept. 1. At that point, any player in the organization can be called up to the big league team (and added to the 40-man, if hes not already on). Also at that point, the effectiveness and the worthiness of such moves will be debated.

For teams in contention, the call-ups can provide some reinforcement and rest for players as teams make the stretch run to the playoffs although some will debate how much help a minor leaguer will provide in place of a regular major league player. For teams not in contention, the call-ups can give evaluators a chance to see them in a major league environment although most evaluators are not fans of evaluating players in September.

The Red Sox find themselves in new territory this September. In previous years they have been playoff contenders. Former manager Terry Francona was never a big fan of the late-season call-ups as he tried to prepare his team for the playoffs, with extra bodies and their requisite extra lockers and equipment -- clogging up the clubhouse and the dugout, trying to find adequate playing time for all, with the possibility of having a game turned by a player who has not been around all season, or watching the scoreboard thinking that another playoff contender is playing a team with a lesser lineup in September.

This year, though, the Sox find themselves on the other side of the coin. The Sox wakeup Thursday morning to find themselves 13.5 games back, in fourth place behind the Yankees in the American League East, 10 games behind the As and Orioles for a wild card spot with four teams ahead of them. Additionally, last weekends blockbuster trade with the Dodgers opened four spots on the big league roster. Since Saturday, the Sox have either activated from the disabled list or called up eight players. While some of the players who were called up either already have been or will be sent back, it just demonstrates the needs for players on the big league team.

A few weekends ago with the Red Sox in New York, general manager Ben Cherington said he expected Daniel Bard, who was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket on June 5 after an abysmal foray into starting pitching, to be back with the major league team before rosters expand on Sept. 1. That statement appears to be coming true today, as Bard is expected to be activated Thursday, taking a spot on the 25-man roster, with Wednesdays starter Zach Stewart likely to be optioned back to Pawtucket.

How much help Bard will be able to provide remains to be seen. In 11 games, 10 starts, before being optioned in June, he posted a record of 5-6 with a 5.24 ERA. In 55 innings, he gave up 52 hits and 37 walks with 34 strikeouts. At the time he was tied for the league lead with eight hit batters.

Whether Bard, who has recommitted to the bullpen, has actually earned a promotion is also a question. But, it is likely a moot question at this point, with the major league team in need of arms. In 31 games (one start) with Pawtucket, Bard is 3-2 with a 7.03 ERA. In 32 innings, he has given up 31 hits and 29 walks with 32 strikeouts. He has hit 10 batters, and also thrown nine wild pitches. In nine August appearances, spanning 8 23 innings, he has given up 12 runs, nine earned, for a 9.34 ERA, with 11 hits, 12 walks, and eight strikeouts. But in his last three outings, spanning three innings, he has given up just one run on five hits with no walks and two strikeouts.

Here is a look at some others who could be called up soon:

Chris Carpenter In 15 games, spanning 14 23 innings with Pawtucket, the right-hander has posted a record of 1-0 with three saves and a 0.61 ERA. He has allowed just one run on six hits, including a home run, with seven walks and 15 strikeouts. In his last 10 outings, spanning 9 23 innings, he has not allowed a run, with four hits, three walks, and 10 strikeouts. Carpenter, who turned 26 in December, was acquired from the Cubs in February as compensation for former GM Theo Epstein, and underwent surgery to remove bone spurs in February. He made his major league debut with the Cubs last season, appearing in 10 games, spanning 9 23 innings, giving up three runs on 12 hits and seven walks with eight walks.

Pedro Beato -- The right-hander, who was acquired from the Mets for Kelly Shoppach on Aug. 16, was called up Aug. 26. He earned the win that day, giving up two run on three hits in two innings against the Royals. But with Sox in need of more help, he was sent back to Pawtucket the next day. Beato, who turns 26 in October, made his big league debut in 2011, and also appeared in seven games with the Mets this season. In two relief appearances with Pawtucket, spanning three scoreless innings, he has given up just one hit and a walk with six strikeouts.

Che-Hsuan Lin The outfielder was called up Aug. 25, his third call-up this season, but was sent back the next day. With the Sox he has appeared in seven games, six in right field, one in center, going 1-for-6 (.167) at the plate. In 109 games with Pawtucket, he has appeared in 88 games in center field, 20 in right, and one in left, serving as the designated hitter for two games. Lin, who turns 24 on Sept. 21, is batting .244, with a .321 on-base percentage, and .310 slugging percentage.

Danny Valencia The infielder was acquired in a trade with the Twins on Aug. 5, getting his first call-up on Aug. 11. He appeared in four games, playing third base, batting .125 (1-for-9) with an RBI before being sent back to Pawtucket on Aug. 21. Valencia, who turns 28 on Sept. 19, appeared in 34 games for the Twins this season. Making 33 starts at third, he hit .198, with a .212 on-base percentage and .310 slugging percentage. In eight games with Pawtucket, he has hit .312 (10-for-32) with a .371 OBP, .406 SLG. In 77 combined Triple-A games with Pawtucket and Rochester this season, he is batting .258, with a .298 OBP, and .400 SLG

The Sox could also get bullpen help in September from left-hander Rich Hill and right-hander Scott Atchison, who are both on the 60-day DL. Hill underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2010, returning to the big league team on April 29. But an elbow strain has sidelined him since June 8. In five rehab appearances with Pawtucket, spanning five scoreless innings, Hill has a record of 1-0, giving up one hit with one walk and five strikeouts. Atchison, on the DL since July 14 with right forearm tightness, initially thought he might have to have Tommy John surgery until doctors recommended rest and rehab. If healthy, he could return in the middle of September.