Coming out of Spring Training, two players that hadn’t impressed me were Mike Carp and Craig Breslow. Carp did not distinguish himself at the plate, and it was said he would be kept on the roster to cover back-up roles at first base and the outfield. Breslow did not show the control he has found and was banged around a few times in the Spring.
Here’s where you find out that management knows what it’s doing, when they bring these two guys to Boston, instead of some promising rookies. Carp showed he could come off the bench with timely pinch hits like the bleeder he fought into left field Wednesday night, and Breslow found the corners of the strike zone around mid-season and now has about 20 consecutive innings of scoreless relief under his belt.
At one point in the season I favored starting Carp and benching Napoli, and I still think they could be platooned effectively. Carp looks pretty sharp in the field, so nothing is lost substituting him for Napoli, who is no prize against right-handed pitchers. Now that Napoli appears to have broken his hitting slump, there is even a better case for alternating the first basemen. Increasingly you see right handed pitchers dominating the Red Sox, but faltering against their lefty hitters. Bud Norris was mowing down the righties last night, but Drew and Saltalamachia managed doubles and scored against him. to So I have come 180 degrees with Carp and now think he should have more playing time.
Breslow seemed like a good addition to the bullpen a year ago, but he was touched for a few home runs early in the season. You never like to see that from a guy coming out of the bullpen. Junichi Tazawa seems to have the same problem centering the ball on occasion, and you don’t have confidence in him coming in with the game on the line.
But in August Breslow found his groove, and he dominated the Dodgers last weekend. He works fast and moves the ball around the plate with authority. It’s great to have a lefty equivalent to Uhehara, when you think about the post-season. You pay dearly for small mistakes in location in the post-season.
I don’t mind eating a little crow, when two players begin to show what their coaches knew they could do, especially late in the season. Already I’m thinking about the tight playoff situations and whom I would want pinch hitting or coming in to pitch in the eighth. Carp and Breslow have come sharply into that picture, and I’m glad I was wrong about them.