Watching Justin Masterson pitch in his third big league start tonight made me believe he can and will be a future stud in the rotation for the Boston Red Sox.
For a kid who started the season in AA Portland, being thrown to the wolves as early as April 28th, he has faired pretty well. In his three starts this season, Masterson has compiled a 2-0 record with a 2.95 ERA, and would be 3-0 had the bullpen not completely flopped after he pitched six and one-third innings of one-run ball in his debut.
However, the underlying factor not many people are noticing is how he is pitching so well. Unlike many talented young pitchers beginning their careers, Masterson is attacking hitters. Armed with a devastating heavy sinker, he is not afraid to throw first-pitch strikes to some of the most talented hitters in baseball.
Add in his relatively nasty slider, and the Red Sox have the potential to have one of the best young rotations in years—that is, if Clay Buchholz starts watching Masterson pitch to the big boys.
Masterson's method of going after hitters is exactly what Buchholz needs to do to reach his potential as a starter. Granted, the two have a different repertoire of pitches, with Masterson relying on his sinker and slider (as previously mentioned), and Buchholz having one of the best fastball/change-up combos for any young pitcher—plus an extremely devastating 12-6 curveball.
Every Boston fan remembers last September, when Clay Buchholz took the mound and dominated hitters on his way to a no-hitter. He did it, like Masterson, by attacking hitters and making them adjust to his pitches, not the other way around.
Before going on the DL, Buchholz could be found stockpiling his pitch counts by nibbling away early in the count with change-ups and curveballs. Instead, he should be getting hitters behind with his plus-fastball, and telling them to take a seat with either of his breaking pitches.
While I am a huge Clay Buchholz fan, his style of pitching this season showed me he needed some more seasoning. Justin Masterson, on the other hand, has shown me he is ready for the next level—even though he is not as talented as Buchholz.
The difference between these two right now is attitude on the mound. When Buchholz pitches, he is saying in the back of his mind, "I hope he doesn't hit this." But when Masterson is on the mound he is saying, "They won't hit this."
I hope Buchholz has watched Masterson's demeanor closely, because adopting that type of an attitude will bring him to the next level.
As for Masterson, he has shown he believes in his ability enough to be in the big leagues. While he has the attitude I'm sure the Red Sox organization wants him in the minor leagues to fine tune his mechanics, when he does—watch out Major League Baseball.
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