Is John Smoltz done?

John Smoltz has been one of the finest pitchers in his era, but has he reached the end of his career?

Thursday night, Smoltz was rocked for nine hits and eight earned runs in just 3.1 innings of work as the Yankees crushed the Sox 13-6 in New York. Smoltz got through the first three innings without giving up a run, but once the Yankees started turning over their lineup, they began to tee off on him.

This was his fourth start in a row where he’s given up at least five earned runs. Over that span, he’s not only been incredibly hittable, but he also has been missing with his fastball and last night he struggled with his control. When he’s missing with his pitches, he’s leaving the ball in the zone and he’s getting crushed. One of the main reasons he’s still pitching at 42 is because he’s always had impeccable control. But if he doesn’t have that part of his game, he might as well be throwing beach balls at hitters.

Smoltz was a nice signing for the Sox in the offseason and maybe he still needs time to work himself back into game shape after having shoulder surgery earlier this year. But Boston can’t continue to lose every fifth day waiting for him to work out the kinks.

Maybe it’s time for Terry Francona to move Smoltz to the bullpen.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Dice-K blaming Red Sox for shoulder problems

Daisuke Matsuzaka has gotten to the root of all of his shoulder woes this season: The Boston Red Sox…or so he indicated recently in an article for a Japanese newspaper.

In the story, Matsuzaka suggested that his effectiveness and health are being negatively impacted by the training techniques of the team. He blamed his current predicament on an inability by the club to account for the needs of Japanese pitchers, and suggested that he was ready to take a stand in an effort to return to the practices that he followed before coming to Major League Baseball.

The Red Sox consistently have cited the World Baseball Classic as the chief culprit for the pitcher’s struggles and subsequent time on the sidelines. Matsuzaka, however, blames his season on the throwing program and training techniques that the Sox outlined for him once he came to the U.S.

“If I’m forced to continue to train in this environment, I may no longer be able to pitch like I did in Japan,” Matsuzaka is quoted as saying in the article, which was written by Taeko Yoshii. “The only reason why I managed to win games during the first and second years (in the U.S.) was because I used the savings of the shoulder I built up in Japan. Since I came to the Major Leagues, I couldn’t train in my own way, so now I’ve lost all those savings.”

Nonetheless, Matsuzaka indicated that he may be less inclined to listen going forward. The pitcher cited the history of Japanese starters whose careers have endured steep declines (Hideo Nomo and Kaz Ishii come to mind) — often accompanied by injuries — after just a couple of years of effectiveness in the U.S. (It is, however, worth noting that Nomo rebounded from that decline to enjoy renewed success later in his career.) Because of such examples, Matsuzaka said that he is emboldened about the need to return to the training techniques with which he grew up.

Point: The Red Sox shelled out quite a lot of dough to bring Dice-K over from Japan and make him a major league pitcher. So if they want him eating blueberry Pop Tarts while hopping on one foot all while watching reruns of “I Love Lucy,” then that’s exactly what Dice-K should do. Boston is essentially Matsuzaka’s boss, so he needs to meet them half way and work something out. And I think it was a little childish of him to run off to a Japanese newspaper bitching and crying about the Red Sox training procedures when he’s making that much money.

Counterpoint: Players know their bodies more than teams do, so if Dice-K thinks that eating the cinnamon Pop Tarts while hopping on both feet all while watching reruns of “Alf” make for a better training program, then Boston should step aside and let him do what’s comfortable for him. After all, if the Sox don’t want him to wind up like Hideki Irabu, then it would behoove them to allow Matsuzaka to perform the methods that made him so successful in Japan and the first couple years in the U.S.

I don’t think either argument is wrong, but one thing is for sure: the Red Sox have a problem here. Dice-K has been filthy atrocious this season and can’t stay healthy. If he starts closing his eyes and plugging his ears while stomping around his bedroom whenever Boston tries to reason with him, then the club will have an even bigger problem than Dice-K’s bloated ERA.

Bay, Red Sox break off contract talks again

For the second time this year, the Red Sox have broken off contract talks with outfielder Jason Bay, who becomes a free agent after the season.

“It’s now clear that this round of talks won’t result in a deal, either,’’ Epstein said. “As a result, we’re going to table discussions again, which once again is a mutual decision, and pick them up most likely after the season.’’

That does not necessarily mean that Bay is eager to test the free agent market. While that would likely garner him bigger offers, especially with the Yankees in need of a left fielder for 2010 and beyond, Bay said he could resume talks with the Red Sox before filing for free agency. The sides, Bay said, have made progress since they first broke off talks in spring training.

“I’m not trying to set a precedent,’’ Bay said. “Just looking for something that’s fair. Whether that’s changed over the last three months, you guys can determine that.

Ultimately I think a deal between Bay and the BoSox will eventually get done. It might drag on into the winter, but if Epstein wants him bad enough, Bay will be back patrolling left field at Fenway again next season.

But if Bay flies the coup (either to the Bronx or otherwise), I wouldn’t discount the Sox taking a look at Matt Holliday, who becomes a free agent after this season. He hasn’t hit well this season, but he would be the next best available after Bay and he’ll still be relatively young.

Again though, I think Bay will wind up back in Boston. He has dramatically upgraded his defense at Fenway and while he probably isn’t as good as he was at the start of this season, he’s a quality bat and someone the Sox can plug in the middle of their lineup for the next couple seasons and not have to worry about filling that void.

Red Sox willing to eat Lugo’s salary?

According to a report by’s Ken Rosenthal, the Red Sox are willing to eat Julio Logo’s remaining salary in a trade.

The Red Sox, facing a roster bind as they prepare for the returns of shortstop Jed Lowrie and third baseman Mike Lowell, have informed teams that they are willing to assume virtually all of shortstop Julio Lugo’s remaining salary in a trade, according to a major-league source.

While another source told earlier Thursday that the Sox were “desperately” trying to move Lugo, the second source offered a different view.

The Red Sox, he said, recognize that Lugo is a “sunk cost,” and would accept a fringe prospect for him in return. In other words, they are willing to assume the same financial burden that they would if they released him.

A release could be the ultimate outcome. The Red Sox are likely to designate Lugo for assignment if they are unable to trade him once Lowrie returns.

The problem with Lugo’s trade value — besides his erratic defense since returning from knee surgery — is his contract. Lugo, 33, is owed the remainder of his $9 million salary this season, plus $9 million next season. The Sox have been trying to move him since last off-season.

Boston is going to have a tough time moving Lugo, even if they do eat all of his salary. He’s brutal defensively, has zero pop and is already 33. He’s done.

Dice-K out of Boston’s rotation for good?

The Red Sox might have found the answer to their question about what to do with their starting rotation when John Smoltz comes off the DL, although it’s certainly not one they were expecting would unveil itself.

Boston fans and those unfortunate enough to have him on their fantasy team know that Daisuke Matsuzaka has been wretched this season. After the Braves beat him like a piñata last Friday, Dice-K dropped to 1-5 on the season with an 8.23 ERA and 2.20 WHIP.

Following that performance, the BoSox placed Matsuzaka on the disabled list for the second time this year, this time due to isuckitis and ican’tthrowastriketosavemylifeitis. And as the Boston Herald points out, Dice-K might not return to the starting rotation for the rest of the season, even if he does come off the DL in perfect health.

Smoltz is set to make his 2009 debut this week and with Brad Penny pitching as well as he has this season, there isn’t any room for the struggling Matsuzaka in the rotation. So even if the team doesn’t find anything wrong with him in his latest stint on the DL, Dice-K might have to ride out the rest of the season in the bullpen or on the pine.

Of course, there’s a major possibility that the 86-year old Smoltz and the fragile Penny could go down at some point this season and Dice-K could leap back into the rotation, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But it is staggering that a pitcher who went 18-3 last year with a 2.90 ERA has struggled so badly this season.

One issue that is sure to be brought up is Dice-K’s role in the World Baseball Classic. He pitched well int he WBC this year, yet he’s struggled mightily so far in the MLB season. How does a pitcher who went 18-3 one year go directly in the toilet the following season? Did he get worn out or hurt in the WBC? If he did, it would be yet another reason not to have the WBC be played before the MLB season.

Either way, Boston is thankful to have the pitching depth they do and despite other teams being interested in his services, it doesn’t look like Penny is going anywhere now.

Related Posts