Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Junichi Tazawa (63) throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the eighth inning at US Cellular Field. Chicago defeats Boston 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE
Today, we won't be looking at prospects, as the players involved have either passed the service time or age requirements of that designation. But they are also all players who, in some way or another, could end up on the 2012 Red Sox, and therefore deserve a look.
Junichi Tazawa, RP
|162 Game Avg.||5.97||53||131||78||1.760||13.2||1.3||2.6||5.5||2.10|
Junichi Tazawa doesn't have an ERA -- and therefore no ERA+ -- at either level he's pitched at this season. That's because he's left each of this nearly 16 innings unscathed, in both Boston and Pawtucket. He wasn't sent back to Triple-A for being disappointing -- he did average more than an inning per appearance, and hadn't issued a walk nor run. He just happened to be the one pitcher in the bullpen with an option remaining, and Scott Atchison and Matt Albers -- who might normally be thought of as the first pitchers to be designated -- have been two of the more important hurlers in the pen. Ergo, Tazawa headed back to Rhode Island on a bus.
He'll be back, though, especially if he keeps pitching like he has in the minors. The former starter-turned-reliever is striking out seven times as many hitters as he's walking while proving hard to hit -- he has little left to offer at the level, and has flat-out dominated the minors since converting to relief full-time while he recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2011. Thursday night, he threw 2-1/3 innings, striking out five -- it's likely once the Red Sox have need or room for him again, Tazawa will be the first line of bullpen defense from the minors.
Mauro Gomez, 1B
Gomez is absolutely not a prospect, as he's in his age 27 season. But Lars Anderson still just can't seem to put it together in the minors -- his 2012 line has brought his overall Triple-A career numbers down to .262/.355/.421 -- so it's Gomez getting a lot of play at first while Anderson attempts to learn the outfield. Gomez isn't on the 40-man roster, either, so it would take some doing to get him any time in the majors. And the fact he's 27 and has been in the minors for nine years doesn't mean you'd necessarily want him in the bigs. But let's just take a moment to appreciate this line, anyway.
It's certainly not perfect -- he doesn't draw a lot of walks, and the strikeout rates are probably too high for someone with his experience against younger pitchers. But he does have 17 extra-base hits in 112 plate appearances, including nine homers, and performed well at Triple-A in 2011 as well. He's minor-league depth, but as Red Sox fans know, sometimes that depth has to be come major-league depth.
Pedro Ciriaco, IF
For example, 26-year-old Pedro Ciriaco's spring helped bump him from minor-league depth into the role of someone who could be called up to the majors, should the Red Sox need some help in the infield and don't want to call up Iglesias yet again. Like Gomez, some 40-man roster shenanigans would be in order to make it happen, but if he continues to play well on both sides of the ball, then it's easier to make that move.
Before you get too excited, though, Ciriaco is a career .256/.273/.358 hitter at Triple-A over three different seasons at the level. What he's done in 12 games and 53 plate appearances doesn't represent who he's been and likely who he is as a player. He has the glove, but so does Iglesias, and the latter doesn't require the kind of roster sacrifices bringing Ciriaco up would require.