Picard: Masterson now Cleveland's 'main guy'

Picard: Masterson now Cleveland's 'main guy'
August 5, 2011, 4:38 am
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By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Follow @dannypicard

BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; a:link, span.MsoHyperlink color: blue; text-decoration: underline; a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed color: purple; text-decoration: underline; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; The Red Sox got to see the debut of their newest startingpitcher in Erik Bedard on Thursday night at Fenway Park. On the other side wasa familiar face, old friend Justin Masterson.

While the Red Sox acquired Bedard from Seattle in a deadlinetrade over the weekend, Masterson knows what its like to be on the other endof that type of trade. He was one of the young players sent to Cleveland at thetrade deadline in 2009, which in return, sent All-Star catcher Victor Martinezto Boston.

Two years later, Masterson faced his old organization forthe fourth time on Thursday night. And he didnt disappoint, picking up hisninth win of the season while allowing three runs on five hits and one walk,and striking out nine batters in six innings of work.

Hes now 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA in four starts against the RedSox, since being traded for a player thats not even in Boston anymore.

According to Indians manager Manny Acta, Masterson is theirhorse.

Right now, our main guy has been Justin Masterson, saidActa after Clevelands 7-3 win over Boston to split the four-game series. Hesa guy that from now on, and for a while now, we have to try to keep him on thefive days routine, because hes the guy that we want to see out there everyfive days.

Having Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin back-to-back every week,it gives us an opportunity not to get in many lengthy types of slumps.

Masterson has been on anything but a slump in recentoutings. He just wasnt getting the offense to hold up their end of thebargain.

Prior to Thursday nights win, Masterson was 0-1 in his lastthree starts. But in those 22.2 innings, he only allowed three earned runstotal. And not even one win to show for it.

The offense Masterson needed showed up on Thursday night against ateam that the Indians may very well face in the postseason. And after giving uptwo early runs in the first inning, Masterson did his job and shut the doorwhile throwing 118 pitches, with his final pitch of the night being a 94-mphheater that blew by his former catcher Jason Varitek to get out of a jam andend the sixth inning.

He even recorded four strikeouts in the second inning,thanks to Josh Reddick running out a wild pitch after a swing-and-miss strikethree. Being able to tie the Major League record for strikeouts in a singleinning pretty much signified the type of roll Masterson is on as of late.

He was overpowering most of the time, said Acta. Thepitch count kind of hurt him a little bit because of all the strike outs. With thatbeing said, he really stepped it up for us out there.

Hes been very consistent. His velocitys up from pitch oneuntil the last one. And hes pretty confident right now. He doesnt go throughthat many breaking pitches a game, and everybody knows it. Hes tough to hitwhen hes sinking that ball, and elevating that four-seam fastball at 96, 97.

Masterson is clearly a different pitcher now, than when hewas trying to establish his role in Boston as a minor-league call-up. Even RedSox manager Terry Francona can see the glaring differences.

Hes good, said Francona. And we see his best. Im surehe enjoys pitching against us. Hes really good. The things he needed to workon when he was a young pitcher, getting into lefties and everything, he can dothat now. Hes not timid throwing it in. He can elevate when he wants to. Hesimpressive.

Masterson believes his recent dominance is a result ofsomething as simple as not trying to do too much, or as he calls it, dont tryto be overly nasty.

Just the ability to really get ahead, and to understandmyself as a pitcher, said Masterson. Its just going out there and makingquality pitches, and thats OK. You dont have to be overly nasty, but you haveto make quality pitches in the zone, get ahead, and make guys swing at pitchesthat theyre not usually apt to swing at, and it helps you out a lot.

Whatever it is, its working. And not just because it wasagainst the organization that traded him away.

Theyre a great team, they have a great offense, saidMasterson. Its always nice to get a quality win against them. Its great togo out there and put together a decent outing, and really be able to set up ourteam for a chance to win.

Hes loved over there, said Acta. Hes loved over here,and well respected. Theres no resentment whatsoever. I think he goes out everyfive days and tries to beat everybody. They love him over there too.

Not as much as if he were pitching like that for the Red Sox.

Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.