After Keith Foulke was smacked around by the Indians in Boston’s 12-8 loss Tuesday evening, Red Sox manager Terry Francona opted to use Mike Timlin in Wednesday’s 9th inning. The New Hampshire Union-Leader’s Alex Speier says this was only a temporary measure.
One night after Foulke (above) transformed an 8-5 advantage into a crushing 12-8 defeat, Timlin steered through a scoreless ninth. Although he yielded a pair of hits, he preserved the 5-2 score that he inherited as the 39-year-old recorded his third save in 171 appearances in his three years with the Sox.
While Timlin’s successful outing will surely pique interest from a Foulke-flaying fandom, however, it did not represent an affront to the embattled pitcher’s job security. Timlin pitched the ninth only because Foulke was unavailable after logging 47 pitches on Tuesday.
“We don’t need a quarterback controversy,” pronounced Francona. “You set up your ballclub where you think they can be most successful. . . . Getting to the ninth isn’t easy either. Sometimes those innings are maybe more important than the ninth. So if you start plugging one perceived hole then you create maybe a bigger one somewhere else. So we need to keep that in mind.”
That belief all but signals the death knell of any challenges to Foulke’s ninth-inning duties. Francona believes in track records and history suggests that no member of the Red Sox bullpen could provide certainty at the back end of the game.
As yesterday confirmed, Timlin represents a fine stopgap measure when Foulke is fatigued. Still, in three different cities (Toronto, Seattle, Baltimore), he got bounced as a finisher after each club determined that he was constitutionally better suited for a setup role.
Moreover, his difficulty against lefties this year (who pounded him for a .328 mark entering yesterday) suggests someone better deployed against particular stretches of the lineup.
If change to the ineffective Sox bullpen is to come, it would have to arrive from outside the big-league roster. That may happen, but given the paucity of established closers on the market (or, for that matter, in the team’s farm system), Foulke’s job does not appear to face any imminent jeopardy.
Instead, the current and future closer of the Red Sox will surely face more taunts from “Johnny from Burger King” and the rest of the booing legions at Fenway. In sickness and in health, the Sox will entrust their fate to Foulke.
Over time, I’ve talked a lot of shit about MLB.TV’s webcast scheme, but being able to watch last night’s Braves/Marlins game on demand is a very good thing.