BY JOE McDONALD
BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Terry Francona just announced the club -- in the first step toward attempting to bolster its bullpen for the second half of the season -- has optioned pitcher Justin Masterson (above) to Pawtucket and recalled infielder/outfielder Jeff Bailey.
Masterson will be converted to a reliever at Pawtucket, in the hope that he can rejoin the Sox later in the year and, as Jonathan Papelbon did in 2005, give the bullpen an added boost.
"We wanted to, at some point, get Clay back here and in the rotation," said Francona. "We also think getting Justin acclimated to the bullpen has a really good chance to help out ballclub."
While Masterson's long-term future is still as a starting pitcher, he will pitch relief the rest of the season. He'll join the PawSox on the road and pitch Wednesday in Richmond and Friday and Sunday in Norfolk.
"There's not a firm timetable, but the idea is to get him acclimated where he can come help us. In the meantime Jeff Bailey will be here until we activate Clay."
The Red Sox need bullpen help, and the thought all along was Masterson, a 23-year-old right-hander, could be the perfect guy. The sinkerball pitcher is extremely tough on right-handers, plus he's obviously stretched out.
Because he already has major-league experience, and the fact he's very mature, helps his cause.
"We think he has a chance to be real effective against right-handed hitters," said Francona. "You come up in a stretch in the middle of the order, he's got a chance to be very effective. I think sometimes guys' stuff out of the bullpen can play up, also. We view him as somebody like that."
Masterson's velocity has increased since his debut, which has made him more effective.
The rookie started against the Yankees last Saturday in New York and suffered the loss in his six-inning outing. He allowed only two runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
Buchholz was placed on the disabled list earlier this season with a torn fingernail, which Francona said today was actually a blister. When the rookie was ready to return to the rotation, the Sox thought it best to send him to Triple-A where he could work on his fastball.
"Let's try to look at the big picture," Francona explained. "That's not very easy to do sometimes, because getting outs is at such a premium. The kid throws a no-hitter [last September] and everyone thinks it looks easy, but there is some developing left to do. We saw that all along and I don't think it's our responsibility to point it out to the media every flaw we see in somebody's delivery."
The idea was to have Buchholz change his arm slot just a bit where his arm was about six inches away from his head. That tweak will allow move action on his fastball.
"This is a kid who doesn't need to be fighting for his life out there," said Francona. "He has a chance to be a dominant major-league pitcher, and sometimes the way to do that is slow it down and let him develop a little bit in Triple-A where if a ball gets hit it's not on SportsCenter."