Unlike the Red Sox young gun non-roster invitees who have been reassigned to minor league camps and may still have their whole baseball careers in front of them, these veteran pitchers need to shine now if they’re going to make the 2010 show.
With the starting rotation and bullpen largely predetermined, there aren’t many spots for these aging devotees of the diamond gods.
While they await the sign to take the field and pray for injuries or trades to free up roster space, let’s take a look at who they are and where they’ve been.
When you see them on the mound or find their name popping up on your particular digital feed, it’s nice to know a thing or two about them, not to mention what the heck they look like.
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Thus far this spring, righty Robert Manuel has availed himself admirably of his opportunities to impress the Red Sox coaching staff. Over 2.1 innings against the Twins, Orioles, and Rays, Manuel has fanned four and allowed no runs on just one hit.
Claimed off waivers from the Seattle Mariners on November 20, 2009, Manuel was originally signed by the New York Mets as a non-drafted free agent and was traded to the Reds in 2006.
Rising through the Reds organization, Manuel struggled early at Single-A ball before putting together an excellent 2008 season at the Double-A level. In that season at Chattanooga, the Sam Houston State graduate pieced together a 1.40 ERA during 77 innings in which he struck out 92 and walked only 15.
During a 2009 spent largely at Triple-A, Manuel achieved an excellent 2.70 ERA over 46.2 innings and maintained about a 1.00 WHIP.
Called up to the Bigs for the first time in his career in July of last year, Manuel dealt 4.1 innings of shutout ball.
Everything indicates this guy is ready to make an impact at the MLB level.
Hometown: Toa Baja, Puerto Rico
Okay, so let’s all hope Robert Manuel isn’t exactly “aging yet,” but Fernando Cabrera is definitely on the cusp.
In three innings of spring training work for the Red Sox, this 28-year-old Puerto Rican and borderline journeyman has allowed one earned run and two hits while striking out three against the Twins, Marlins, and Astros.
Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 10th round of the 1999 amateur draft, Cabrera owns a 5.12 ERA in 174 Major League innings spread over the Cleveland, Baltimore, and Boston organizations.
This is a player whose middling MLB performances contrast starkly with an impressive minor-league resume. In more than 600 MILB innings, Cabrera has anchored a 3.23 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP.
Unfortunately, Cabrera seems too small for the show’s limelight. Just last year, Cabrera notched a 1.71 ERA in 52.2 innings for the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA). When called up to the big-league club, Cabrera managed an unrecognizable 8.44 ERA and 2.06 WHIP in 5.1 innings of laborious work.
Still, Cabrera has been given another chance. If he can’t execute on the big stage, he may not get another opportunity, at least not with Boston.
Hometown: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
When Colorado signed Jorge Sosa as an amateur free agent in 1995, he was an outfielder. After five seasons in their farm system, it was discovered that Sosa could sling a 99-mph fastball, and he was converted to pitching.
After jumping from Colorado to Seattle to Milwaukee to Tampa Bay, Sosa landed in Atlanta and became a Brave in 2005. Injuries opened some doors, and before he knew it, Sosa had spun a 2.55 ERA and compiled a 13-3 record over 134 MLB innings.
Unfortunately, 2005 was a career year, and stints with the Mets and Nationals have since yielded only diminishing returns.
Whether for performance reasons or otherwise, Sosa was busted for using performance enhancing drugs and suspended for 50 games in 2008.
With or without assistance, 2010 is beginning to look like much of the same. In two innings against the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays, Sosa has surrendered three hits and an earned run while fanning two.
And it’s only spring training.
Hometown: Alameda, CA
During six spring-training innings this year, Joe Nelson has posted a reasonably decent 3.00 ERA and recorded five strikeouts. Compared to Nelson’s last appearance in a Red Sox uniform back in 2004, these numbers shine.
In that championship season, Nelson pitched 2.2 MLB innings and faced 17 batters. Exhausting as that sounds, Nelson only surrendered five earned runs in those innings. That’s the silver lining in his 2004 16.88 ERA.
However, the San Francisco graduate has performed much better in the years since. With the 2006 Kansas City Royals, Nelson improved to a 4.43 ERA over 44.2 innings in which he struck out 44 batters.
The 2008 Florida Marlins benefited from Nelson’s growth and watched him fan 60 and leave a career-best 2.00 ERA on the mound over 54 innings.
Not quite as impressively, this former fourth-rounder put together a 4.02 ERA over the course of the Tampa Bay Rays’ 2009 campaign.
Known for a “Vulcan” changeup that is exactly how it sounds, Nelson could be hit or miss for the Red Sox this season. Signed to a minor-league contract, Nelson should get the call up at some point this year.
One can only hope he deals like he did as a Marlin.
Hometown: Effingham, Illinois
Tim Wakefield has some company in the 41-year-old Brian Shouse, who returns to the Red Sox organization after 11 seasons passed diversely with the Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Tampa Bay Rays.
Shouse, who has altered his delivery from an over-the-top to a side-arm form since his 1998 stint with the Red Sox, at least commands respect with his career 3.72 ERA in 350.2 MLB innings.
The relatively successful lefty is probably the most likely of all the non-roster invitees to reach Fenway first. He has the experience, the maturity, and the always-desirable left-handed pitching arm.
In 4.1 spring-training innings, Shouse has put up a 2.08 ERA while allowing five hits and fanning four.