Justin Masterson saved the Red Sox from having to empty their bullpen completely on Tuesday night. He'll also save the Red Sox from having to scramble for pitchers -- as opposed to what some would have you believe -- in the aftermath of Daisuke Matsuzaka's bout with arm fatigue.
Yes, the Red Sox will need Tim Wakefield to pitch deep into today's game in Oakland to save wear and tear on a bullpen that employed six of its seven arms in Tuesday's 12-inning loss. But the fact that Masterson threw four outstanding innings meant the Red Sox (a) didn't have to use Takashi Saito, and (b) didn't need either Ramon Ramirez or Jonathan Papelbon to throw more than 20 pitches, making them potentially available today.
(It would help, too, if the Red Sox got a better outing from Wakefield than the disaster he turned in the last time he pitched in Oakland: He allowed eight earned runs in five innings en route to an 8-3 defeat.)
The Red Sox have a scheduled day off on Thursday, meaning Manny Delcarmen (36 pitches on Tuesday), Hideki Okajima (28 pitches on Tuesday) and Javy Lopez (25 pitches on Tuesday) will have back-to-back days off and be ready to go against the Orioles on Friday.
(It's worth keeping in mind that the A's, too, emptied their bullpen thanks to the ineffectiveness of Dana Eveland. Andrew Bailey, Russ Springer and Brad Ziegler all threw more than 20 pitches on Tuesday. Bob Geren won't have much more available than Terry Francona will. Jerry Blevins, anyone?)
And in five days, if Matsuzaka isn't able to take the ball when his spot in the rotation comes around, Masterson is perfectly in line to get that start.
It only makes sense. The Red Sox treated him as a candidate to start throughout the spring and only began to limit his innings in the final week or two in Fort Myers. He's a valued eighth-inning guy -- his first two appearances notwithstanding -- but the Red Sox have always known they can turn him back into a starting pitcher if necessary. He even threw 81 pitches in a minor-league game on March 27, less than three weeks ago.
He threw 60 pitches in relief of Matsuzaka on Tuesday, a heavy workload for a reliever but a relatively light day for a starter. He'd get five days to rest and five days to throw a bullpen session or two in preparation for a Patriots' Day start next Monday. He's been a starter for most of his life; he had a 3.67 ERA in nine big-league starts last season, a stat that looks even better when you consider that opponents hit .206 and slugged .366 off him.
Clay Buchholz might yet be needed to plug the hole left by Josh Beckett if the ace's suspension isn't reduced. The phenom righty actually is on the same schedule as Beckett; he last pitched on Sunday and is in line to pitch on Friday and again the following Wednesday.
But he's an option to fill in for Matsuzaka, too; the Red Sox could limit his innings on Friday with an eye on giving him a big-league start on Monday.
Either way, the Red Sox have options. This is what happens when you have quality pitching depth in your organization -- you don't have to scramble for pitchers.
The Angels, another team with World Series aspirations, have had to scramble for pitching. Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey and Ervin Santana all are on the disabled list. (That's not to mention the tragic death of top prospect Nick Adenhart in a car accident last week.) Mike Scioscia has had to fall back on Darren Oliver (yes, Darren Oliver) and the old reliable To Be Announced when lining up his starting rotation this week.
The Angels are scrambling.
The Red Sox are shuffling. If Matsuzaka can't go, Masterson can pitch. If Beckett is suspended, Buchholz can pitch. John Smoltz still is on the way.
The Red Sox never wanted anything to happen to any of their starting pitchers. But Matsuzaka's injury and Beckett's suspension demonstrates just why you can never have too much pitching depth. Most other teams would scramble in this situation. The Red Sox don't have to.