Paul Byrd is tentatively scheduled to pitch Sunday's game for the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
He shouldn't make that start.
His return was a heartwarming story. It was. But his ERA now stands at 6.04 after his disastrous first inning gave the Red Sox next to no chance to beat the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night. He's now allowed 37 hits in 25 1/3 innings -- just about three hits for every two innings he's pitched.
He smoke-and-mirrored his way to six shutout innings in his debut against the Blue Jays but got shelled in Chicago and repeatedly pitched in and out of trouble against the Los Angeles Angels last Wednesday. His ability to bounce back from a bad first inning on Tuesday saved the Red Sox bullpen, but it doesn't change the fact that the first inning essentially decided the game.
The veteran is not, clearly, going to make any starts for the Red Sox in the postseason. (Knock on wood.) He'll likely make the postseason roster as a long reliever, just like he did last season -- and if he's going to do that, he might as well start getting used to the role now.
He can do that on Sunday by pitching in relief of Michael Bowden.
The rookie with the herky-jerky motion has a 9.00 ERA in the major leagues this season but hasn't surrendered a run in either of his two September appearances out of the bullpen. He finished his minor-league season with an ERA of 3.13 in 24 starts, and opponents actually had less success against him after the All-Star break (.222) than before it (.232).
Unless the Yankees completely fall apart, the division no longer is in doubt. But that doesn't mean the Red Sox have to throw away a game, especially a game against the Yankees, by sending Byrd back out there.
Bowden will be in the mix next spring for a spot at the back end of the Red Sox rotation -- or he might be a key chip in a trade this winter. It might be worthwhile to see what he can do as a starting pitcher in the major leagues.
The Red Sox have nothing to gain, short-term or long-term, by starting Byrd. They have quite a bit to gain, particularly long-term, by starting Bowden.