Kyle Weiland made his first start in the majors yesterday in place of the injured Jon Lester. The right-handed Weiland has been flat-out dominant at times in Triple-A Pawtucket, and this start, against a struggling Oriole squad, was a chance to see what he can provide for Boston in the second half of the season.
We got a glimpse of both sides of Weiland in this game. In the first inning, his fastball was hitting 94 mph, he was hitting his spots with his cutter and his backdoor curve, and he was able to make short work of Baltimore. A 1-2-3 inning on 12 pitches with a strikeout is efficiency at its finest.
The second inning didn't go nearly as well.
Weiland gave up a two-run homer to Derrek Lee that tied up the game. It was a credit to Lee that this pitch was hit out, as it was inside and a ball as well as somewhat high in the zone, but Weiland just wasn't the same for the rest of the inning after that pitch. Mark Reynolds had a hard-hit double immediately after, then Nolan Reimold and Robert Andino followed that up with singles. He gave up three more singles in the inning before things were over -- just one of which can be blamed on the defense, when Marco Scutaro flipped to Dustin Pedroia at second to try to get the speedy Adam Jones rather than trying to throw Vladimir Guerrero (who would lose a foot race with a piano at this point in his career) out at first on a grounder to short.
A couple of hard-hit balls and a flurry of singles are no reason to panic, though, and the Sox kept Weiland in (though they did warm Alfredo Aceves up a few times just in case). Weiland would throw two scoreless frames after the six-run second, though, at times, it looked like he was in trouble. He walked two batters and hit two more, but the hits didn't fall after the second, leaving him from suffering any more runs allowed.
Weiland was thrown out in the fourth inning for that second hit batsmen, despite the fact that there was a runner on third and no outs and no player in the game is dumb enough to intentionally hit a batter in that situation. Throw in the fact Weiland had been throwing pitches up and in there all day -- and had already hit Reynolds in the hand on a similar pitch earlier -- and it's pretty obvious the umpire forgot context and just punished him for being wild.
Because of this, we didn't get to see how Weiland would respond to a dangerous situation like runner on third, no outs. With just the four innings under his belt, there isn't much to work with here, but what we can tell is this: Weiland has some great stuff, but it may not be quite ready for The Show just yet. That isn't to say he doesn't belong here -- sometimes you need a challenge if you are going to learn. But if we were to draw one conclusion from such a small sample, it would be that fact that he still has things to learn. That's okay, though, and it's natural for a player his age with his experience to be at that point. I'm intrigued by what he can do for Boston -- most likely as a member of the bullpen -- and hopefully we get to see another start or two out of him following this one.