Red Sox shuffle their bullpen, add Sauerbeck

By Jim Callis

July 22, 2003

The ever-changing Red Sox bullpen, which has the fourth-worst relief ERA in the majors at 4.92, took on a new look Tuesday. Boston picked up Scott Sauerbeck and Triple-A lefthander Mike Gonzalez from the Pirates for erstwhile closer Brandon Lyon and Double-A righthander Anastacio Martinez. It was the second time in three days that Pittsburgh divested itself of a big league reliever. The Pirates sent Mike Williams to the Phillies on Sunday.

Sauerbeck, 31, has been one of the game’s best lefthanded relievers since Pittsburgh grabbed him from the Mets in the December 1998 major league Rule 5 draft. His out pitch is a big curveball that eats up lefty hitters, and he sets it up with a high-80s fastball. Tied for the major league lead with 53 appearances this year, he has gone 3-4, 4.05 with a 32-25 strikeout-walk ratio and .207 opponent average in 40 innings. Sauerbeck is much tougher on lefthanders (.204 average, .618 on-base plus slugging percentage for his career) than righties (.263 average, .764 OPS). He has a 19-15, 3.56 record and five saves in 341 big league games. Sauerbeck is making $1.55 million in the final season of a three-year, $2.75 million contract. He’ll be eligible for arbitration after the season and for free agency after 2004.

Claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays last October, Lyon saved eight games in nine chances for the Red Sox in May and June before Byung-Hyun Kim moved from the rotation to assume the closing duties. A full-time reliever for the first time in his big league career, Lyon has gone 4-5, 3.93 with nine saves in 42 appearances. In 53 innings, he has a 45-17 K-BB ratio and .268 opponent average. The 23-year-old righthander is a sinker-slider pitcher with good command. In 68 major league games, he has gone 10-13, 4.96 with nine saves. Lyon makes $309,500 this year and may not be arbitration-eligible until after 2005.

Considered one of the Pirates’ better prospects, the 25-year-old Gonzalez missed the first two months of this season with back spasms. In 14 games between high Class A Lynchburg, Double-A Altoona and Nashville, he has gone 0-1, 2.18 with two saves. In 21 innings, he has a 27-8 K-BB ratio and has held hitters to a .213 average with one homer. A 30th-round pick in 1997 out of perennial juco power San Jacinto (Texas), Gonzalez has very good velocity for a southpaw. He can touch 95 mph with his fastball, and has nice late life on his slider. After a few more appearances in Triple-A, he could be ready to help the Red Sox.

Martinez, 24, has bounced back from a disappointing 2002 in Double-A to re-establish himself as a prospect. His age was revised upward two years before the season, and then he went 5-12, 5.31 with an Eastern League-high 75 walks. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1998, he has taken to a shift from starting to relieving at Portland this year. Martinez also can throw in the mid-90s, and his lack of a consistent second pitch and command isn’t as much of a weakness when he comes out of the bullpen. He has gone 3-1, 2.25 with 14 saves in 34 games. He also has a 37-24 K-BB ratio and .212 opponent average.