Following Tuesday evening's game, right-handed reliever Clayton Mortensen was optioned to Pawtucket, reportedly to make room for Justin Germano. Not only is Mortensen the lone reliever in the bullpen with an option -- and therefore the only one of the current group who can be sent to the minors without having to deal with pesky waivers -- but he also threw five innings and 71 pitches in relief of Daisuke Matsuzaka on Monday night, meaning he wasn't going to be pitching for a few days yet anyway.
Why Germano? He opted out of his minor-league deal with the Sox on Monday, giving Boston a 48-hour window in which to decide to bring him up. With Mortensen of no use for a few days, an open 40-man spot staring them in the face for at least a couple more weeks after the designation of Darnell McDonald, and the loss of one of Pawtucket's more productive veterans at hand, it was likely the only time in which Boston would be able to keep Germano, thanks to the roster crunch.
That doesn't mean Germano is an asset, though. It's just the one time period this year where they can possibly test drive him in the majors without upsetting the balance of their 25- or 40-man roster. As a starter in the majors, Germano owns a 5.50 ERA in 191 innings, thanks to a 1.8 K/BB and just 5.4 strikeouts per nine against three free passes per nine. He's been a bit better in relief, albeit in far fewer innings, with a 2.1 K/BB and 3.50 ERA in 43 appearances and 61 frames.
His control at Pawtucket is impressive, but it's also typical of his minor-league numbers. Something hasn't translated for him when in the majors, and he's never found similar success. Boston does have two ways they can use him, though: either in relief, to see if he's of any use there as he's been in the past, or they can utilize the right-hander as a spot starter to keep the six-man rotation intact through the All-Star break, avoiding breaking the cycle that was going to help give rookie Felix Doubront something of an extended vacation in his first full year in the bigs, the one where he's, barring injury, going to obliterate his previous innings high as a pro.
How they end up using him long-term is a bit sketchier -- this open 40-man roster spot that he'd use is potentially temporary, unless some trades or cuts are made elsewhere, as Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, and Andrew Bailey are all expected to return from the 60-day disabled list in July. Even if Germano succeeds, the bullpen is already loaded, and the return of Bailey -- and possibly of Daniel Bard, as well -- means he's unlikely to stick for very long.
But, in the five games remaining before the break, there's no problem caused by holding on to Germano just a little bit longer, and the Red Sox are loathe to lose potential useful pieces when they don't have to. He'll get his try out, and it just might help the Sox move him later on this month as part of a larger, 40-man-roster-clearing move -- that, or convince them that he just isn't going to succeed in the bigs like he does in the minors.