Elmhurst Pub Roundtable

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Where have you gone, Jon Lester?

Watching David Pauley pitch last night was a lot like watching a deer caught in headlights. The rookie performed admirably for a portion of his outing, but ended the night yielding 6 runs on 11 hits and never able to locate his off-speed pitches for strikes. He found out quickly that if you don't do that, big league hitters will sit on your 88-91 mph fastball. When you remember he's only 22, you see that he's probably a number 4 or 5 starter for someone, Red Sox or otherwise. But he didn't enter into a game with the fanfare that Papelbon did last season when he pitched 5 innings against the White Sox and then his next start against the Angels where he went 6 and 2/3.

So personally, I'm starting to get irritated. Why? Because this organization is coddling some of their stud pitchers. They did it with Papelbon last year, and now they're doing it with Lester. Now, I could be wrong and it's possible he was on short rest and couldn't go. But if that isn't the case, then there is no reason why he shouldn't have been starting that game. The front office has to realize that at some point these guys are going to have to throw 225-260 innings in a season. The focus seems to be instead on saving their arms, not wanting them to fail, keeping pitch counts low. Lester for the first month plus of the season didn't go more than 3 innings. Instead of it building his strength, it made him try to get outs without being able to set up his pitches. The result: an overinflated ERA and more eroded confidence than built. Let the kid loose and he does fine, as is evidenced by his last 4 starts or so. At 24, Clemens threw 260 innings for Boston in '86. What has changed?

I've said it before, if these conditioning and throwing programs are so good, why are we so worried about the pitches these guys are throwing. Kerry Wood and Mark Prior may have injured themselves, but look at Zito, Mulder, and Hudson. All have achieved a decent level of success in the pros. For every flameout there's an all-star. The Sox need pitching and have it in their system. Wells is down, Clement is scary, Timlin is hurt, Tavarez and Seanez are a mess. If they don't get their act together, they won't make the postseason anyway. So why aren't we looking to take advantage of what the farm system has to offer? The damaged confidence is a joke. Lester dominated AA last year and once he was allowed to take the training wheels off is doing the same at AAA. IT'S TIME. Let the kid pitch. See what you have. At some point, the franchise needs to see if he's ready. When is that going to be? You could always use more time, more seasoning, better location. Schilling says that even now. But unless you let the guy on the mound, you'll never know.

They were afraid last year they were rushing Papelbon. I think that worked out pretty well.

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