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Monday, April 30, 2012

Junichi Tazawa in the Eighth?

Junichi Tazawa
Junichi Tazawa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There were several bright spots for the Sox on the road to a 6-1 trip away from Fenway Park but perhaps the most surprising was recently promoted reliever Junichi Tazawa.

The Japanese righty--two years removed from Tommy John surgery--was once a top pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization and since his promotion he has shown why.

In 6 1/3 innings out of the Red Sox bullpen, Tazawa has yet to allow a run, including a three inning save in relief of Felix Doubront Thursday against the White Sox.

In those 6 1/3 innings, the 26 year old reliever hasn't walked a batter, he's struck out four and allowed four hits for a .63 WHIP. The big league sample is smaller than some of the bullpen arms the Sox have but he was impressive in spring training and didn't allow a run in four outings with Triple-A Pawtucket.

Tazawa was summoned from the PawSox to take the place of Mark Melancon--who the Red Sox had envisioned as their eighth inning arm before he was manhandled to the tune of a 49.50 ERA--so should the young righty move into the spot that was supposed to go to the former Astros closer?

Franklin Morales has been solid at times but he's always been subject to problems with his delivery, causing problems with his control. The result from Morales has been a 4.70 ERA in 7 2/3 innings pitching mostly in the eighth inning but would Bobby Valentine benefit more using the southpaw in sync with Rich Hill as a situational reliever?

If you look at the splits, the answer becomes quite obvious. Right handed hitters are mashing to a .350 BA, .435 OBP against him while leftys have been held to a much lower .182 BA., .231 OBP.

Junichi Tazawa--in a smaller sample--has much better splits. Lefty's have a .100 BA, .100 OBP and righty's have been a bit better at .231 BA, .286 OBP.

While Bobby's not likely to throw Tazawa into the eighth inning right away, it has to be considered an option at some point. He clearly has the stuff, centered around a 94 mph fastball with nasty movement. What do you think about Tazawa setting up Alfredo Aceves?

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