Meet the Boston Red Sox's Middle Relievers: The Men Who Hold the Team Together

Riley AngelCorrespondent IMay 8, 2009

FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 08:  Pitcher Justin Masterson #63 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at City of Palms Park on March 8, 2009 in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

The Boston Red Sox have in recent years been known for their outstanding pitching. The starters for the Red Sox are household names. Their closer is one of the great young pitchers in the league.

They have star hitters who grind out at-bats and make opposing pitchers go insane with frustration. This club is 18-11 because of these men.

However, what you don't hear much about are the men that hold down the fort between the starters and the closer.

These are the middle relievers who work in anonymity and without the glory the other guys get. However, these men are the grease that allow this team to function.

This article will detail how and why they are so important to the team and what their forecast could be for the season. I will also give them grades for how they've done this year.

Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson is a right-handed pitcher in his second year in the big leagues, both years with the Red Sox. He started the year as a reliever, but with the injury to Daisuke Matsuzaka, he has been pitching as a starter and has performed admirably given the situation he was put in.

Masterson throws a slider, a mid-90s four-seam fastball, a sinker, and a changeup.

In his starts, Masterson has shown that if his innings are limited, he performs brilliantly. If he has to extend himself past four or five innings, he wears out and begins giving up runs. This is partially due to the fact that he began the season as a reliever.

When Matsuzaka makes his return, Masterson should be a reliable long reliever who can go three to four innings when necessary and be very effective when the starters have a bad game.

Grade: B

I thought about giving him a C here, but he has pitched out of his element and hasn't done a bad job.

Ramon Ramirez

Ramon Ramirez is a fourth-year veteran, with this season being his first for the Red Sox. He is a right-handed pitcher acquired from the Kansas City Royals. He has been outstanding so far this season, pitching 15.1 innings and only giving up one run for a 0.59 ERA. He has struck out eight batters but walked five.

He's almost exclusively used a four-seam fastball in the low to mid-90s and a fairly good sinker in the first 10 games of the season. He has only limited use of his changeup but has developed and used it in the last several outings. He has good control of his pitches but needs to work on the walks.

At times, he will rely too much on his fastball. Overall, he has had a great season so far, and with the development of the changeup as his third pitch, he looks to be a great setup man for Jonathan Papelbon. His ERA should go up a little in the season, but overall he will be a great addition in the bullpen and shouldn't disappoint the pitching staff.

Grade: A

He has had a great season so far and could not have done much better. He is pitching above expectations at this point, and the future looks promising for this young pitcher.

Manny Delcarmen

Manny Delcarmen is a fifth-year veteran right-hander, all five seasons playing for the Red Sox. He has been phenomenal for the Red Sox this season, pitching 15.1 innings and only giving up one run for a 0.59 ERA. He has a four-seam fastball in the mid-90s, a good changeup, and a good curveball.

He can go multiple innings and can give the bullpen much-needed rest if they become overworked. He has struck out 13 batters and given up eight walks. With a career ERA of 3.26, it looks this young season is no anomaly for the young righty, as he has shown he is one hell of a pitcher.

He has shown no signs of slowing down and could be a powerful force on the mound for the Red Sox this season. He needs to work on giving up fewer walks but will be a major piece of the puzzle come October.

Grade: A

As with Ramirez above, Delcarmen has had an absolutely phenomenal year. He has pitched with command, confidence, and accuracy. He has taken up innings and been a great pitcher in this first month of the season.

Hideki Okajima

Hideki Okajima is a left-handed reliever who is in his third season with the Red Sox. He has pitched 13.2 innings and has given up six runs for a 3.95 ERA. He has a strange throwing motion, as he looks directly at the ground when he throws instead of at the opposing batter.

He throws a four-seam fastball in the mid-80s, a two-seam fastball in the low 80s, a curveball, and a changeup he uses every once in a while. He has been an important setup man in the past for Papelbon but is also able to put in a lot of innings.

His odd delivery is a good mask for what he is going to throw. Okajima has had a decent season so far and looks to be another reliable arm in this deep bullpen once again.

Grade: C+

Hideki Okajima has not played badly, but he has not pitched as well as he did the last couple years.

Takashi Saito

Takashi Saito is a fourth-year veteran in the league, this being his first year for the Red Sox. He is a right-handed pitcher, and he has pitched 11 innings, giving up five runs for a 4.09 ERA. He has struck out 11 batters and walked two. He throws a four-seam fastball and two-seam fastball in the upper 80s to low 90s, a slider, and a curveball.

He is a serviceable reliever and is good for the occasional inning. He won't wow you with his material but does bring a hardworking attitude and is a good addition to the bullpen. He is a reliable pitcher, and the pitching staff will always know what to expect from him.

Grade: C

He is a serviceable reliever but has not shown anything that makes him above average. He will be a useful asset for the Red Sox, but he will not be dominant

Hunter Jones

Hunter Jones is a rookie this season with the Red Sox. He is a much-needed left-handed pitcher who has been sharp early in the season. He hasn't seen much action this year. He has pitched in six games for a total of eight innings. He has given up three runs for a 3.38 ERA.

He has faced 19 batters this season, striking out six and walking none. He throws for strikes, and his fastball is in the mid to upper 80s. He starts out with the fastball and curveball and then eases into the slider. He has a good curveball and good slider. He may be young, but from what he has shown he has potential to be in the big leagues for a long time.

This young lefty could be a huge letdown for teams trying to score against the Red Sox. So far he has shown he has the stuff to be in the big leagues, but that might change once teams get a decent chance to look at him.

He does have a tendency to give up a home run every once in a while. He needs to work on utilizing his pitches more to set up batters. Overall this rookie has all you want in a pitcher and could be an innings eater, and if he can improve the speed of his fastball, he will become an important part of the rotation.

Grade: B

He is a great young pitcher who has plenty of room to improve. He throws for strikes and has the drive to want to beat the other opponent. He has looked good so far this season but hasn't pitched enough to give him an A grade.

Javier Lopez

Javier Lopez is a seven-year veteran in his fourth season with the Red Sox. He is a lefty with a sidearm delivery that can give batters fits due to its strange release. He has pitched in 9.2 innings and given up 12 runs for a 10.24 ERA. He has a four-seam fastball in the upper 80s, a changeup, a slider, and a curveball.

Lopez has had severe control and command issues. He cannot throw his usually good slider for strikes and has had hitters sitting on the fastball. He has walked eight batters while only striking out three. He is a situational pitcher who has plenty of pitches at his disposal but does not have control over any of them so far this season.

If he gets control of his pitches he could be a decent situational man, but if he can't, the Red Sox could decide to bring up one of their many young players waiting for a chance to play in AAA.

Grade: F

For such a stellar staff, Javier Lopez has been absolutely miserable this season. He has no confidence and no command of his pitches. If he continues like this, he will be replaced when Matsuzaka comes back from his injury.


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