When Daniel Bard was called up from Pawtucket to Boston on May 10, it left a hole the size of the Grand Canyon in the PawSox' bullpen.
Enter Rocky Cherry.
Cherry signed a minor league free agent contract on March 24. And for the most part, all he's done is hang zeroes on the scoreboard.
Through May 29, Cherry was 1-0 with a 1.57 ERA and only 19 hits allowed in 23 innings. But over his last 10 outings encompassing 13 innings, his ERA is 0.00 - as in zero runs allowed to go along with 11 strikeouts.
Ironically, Boston is the last team Cherry expected to pursue him because last season while he was pitching for the Orioles, the Red Sox lit him up for four runs in 1 1/3 innings.
"It really surprised me," Cherry said in a massive understatement. "Boston always has taken advantage of me. I was surprised that they were interested."
Cherry is far from the first "unheralded" player the Red Sox have taken a flyer on - the point being if they see something in a pitcher or a position player they disregard modest (or worse) stats.
"If you go by my stats, there's no way they would want me," said Cherry. "My guess is they saw something and think if I figure it out, I may be successful."
Which, of course, he has so far with the PawSox.
Cherry, 29, was picked in the 14th round of the 2002 draft by the Cubs after pitching for the University of Oklahoma. But he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right arm in 2005.
As is usually the case, it took Cherry a good 1 ½ years before he regained his previous velocity - which at times hit in the mid-90s.
"After the operation, my velocity was harder than what it was in the past and I was more consistent," he said. "I still might be able to throw a bit harder."
Even though Cherry occasionally is clocked in the mid-90's, he's done a more consistent job of inducing groundballs.
"I know I've been up and down for my career and I'm trying to be more consistent this year," said Cherry, who has time in the major leagues with the Cubs as well as the Orioles. "I've made pitches and gotten out of jams and feel like I'm getting into a groove."
At the risk of stating the obvious, Cherry is still a long shot to get a call to Boston. But the flip side is stranger things have happened.
"I know it's unlikely that I'll get a chance," he said. "But if I continue to pitch well, maybe it will set me up for next year with some team if not the Red Sox."
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