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AL Player Spotlight - May 11, 2010

Lou Blasi

The Yankees recalled RHP Ivan Nova from AAA Scranton on Monday. The Yankees lost Nova to the Padres in the 2008 Rule V draft but the Padres opted to return him to NY. Since then he’s made the most of his somewhat marginal skills. He parlayed a favorable 75.7% LOB% in AA last year to a nice looking 5-4, 2.36, 1.33 line in 12 starts. He then got beat up at AAA (1-4, 5.10, 1.49) in his second 12 starts of the year although an unfavorable 65.7% LOB% bloated that. Nova seems to have come into his own this year in AAA. He’s 2-0, 2.43, 1.27 in 6 starts, again being helped by a favorable 79.8% LOB%. What he’s done in AAA this year is throw GBs, at a ratio of 1.78:1, as well as showing a new-found ability to make batters miss. The 6-4 right-hander will likely be traded for something this summer and may carve out a career somewhere as a back-half-of-the-rotation starter, especially in the NL. Here and now however, Ivan doesn’t appear to be poised to make a huge impact. Romulo Sanchez was optioned back to SWB to make room.

The Red Sox will push Josh Beckett’s next start, originally scheduled for Wednesday against the Jays, to Friday. Josh hasn’t pitched well against the Jays but this has more to do with the fact he hasn’t pitched all that well over all this year. Since we last talked Josh’s K rate has normalized a bit (7.4/9 vs. 8.5/9 career) and his fastball velocity (93.5 mph) is just a tick off his norm (94.1 career), so I have backed off my health concerns. His pitch mix has been fairly normal as well save for a new infatuation with a cut FB. His traded some CBs for change ups but nothing in his breakdown suggests he’s hiding an injury either, although that possibility still bears watching. The party line is that the Sox want Josh to take a side session to iron some things out. Working in the premise he’s healthy, Josh’s downright unfriendly 56.9% LOB% and unfavorable .365 BHIP% suggests a rebound is coming. For his part Beckett has to reign in his 3.5/9 walk rate, bringing is closer to his 2.9/9 career range. It’s still more likely than not that better days are ahead for Josh.

Update: Just as we get finished speculating that Josh Beckett’s 2010 struggles probably aren’t due to an injury … he suffered one. Preparing for interleague play next week, Josh felt a grab in his back while taking swings in the indoor batting cages at Fenway last night. Doctors will check him out today and we should get a determination on his next start, now scheduled for Friday, sometime this afternoon.

The news that Josh Beckett’s next start will be pushed to Friday has essentially set up a six man rotation for this week, meaning that John Lackey will not get his scheduled second start Sunday in Detroit. That may not be a bad thing. Lackey was torqued by the Jays in Fenway last night. They got to him for 6 runs, all earned, in 6 IP on 8 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6. He came away with the win however as the Sox offense and bullpen picked him up. Lackey hung tough struggling with control issues and without his best stuff, staying around long enough to get the win. After a 4-run second Lackey pitched much better for the remainder of the outing but got burned on a mistake pitch to Jose Bautista which resulted in the last two runs. With the change in the Sox probables, Lackey now gets the Yankees next week on Monday instead of Detroit on Sunday, in addition to a meeting with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Not ideal.

Cliff Lee faces the Orioles tonight after two straight strong, but winless starts to begin his season after recovering from an abdominal strain. He’s 0-1 with a 2.40 ERA after being ridden too long in just his second start of the year against the Rays on Wednesday. He pitched 7 innings allowing 2 runs to the Rays before running out of gas and giving up three more runs, two earned, in the 8th. Lee remains a very viable start tonight. He’s 3-0, 2.70 in four career starts against the O’s and if he isn’t asked for too many pitches again tonight, he should post some good numbers and a win.

The O’s starter against the Mariners tonight, David Hernandez has not been a mystery to AL hitters for some time now. Since his last win against the A’s on August 11th of 2009, Hernandez is 0-10 with a 6.84 ERA in 15 starts. He’s coming off of a miserable start against the Yankees in which he gave up 6 runs in 3.2 IP. Hernandez shouldn’t be on your roster let alone in your lineup this week. But if you have dailies and a level decision involving an Ms hitter, you are looking at a clearly favorable factor here.

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