Pitching staff to shake out this week

This is going to be a big week for our pitching staff. We expect at least one roster change, if not more by the end of the week. Let me summarize:

John Smoltz is ready and waiting at Pawtucket, and must be activated by June 19th, or else he can opt out of his contract. Given the way he has looked and the resources the Sox have already spent on him, I don’t see that as something they want to happen. It has been speculated that Daniel Bard could be demoted to make room for Smoltz on the active roster; I don’t think his latest outing is the reason for that, but as a rookie, he’s the most optionable in that bullpen.

Brad Penny has overcome some early season shakiness and pitched pretty consistently since mid-April, going 4-2 with a 4.42 ERA in 10 starts over that span. If he can do that in the AL East, he can help out a contender needing a back-end starter. According to his contract, he is eligible to be traded starting June 15th (that would be TODAY). There is no rush to trade him, however, the rotation is looking pretty crowded right now and Clay Buchholz is just about ready to pound the door to the Majors down at Triple-A. Penny’s last gem of a start against the Yankees also puts him at peak trade value, so now’s a good time to get a deal done.

In order to make room for Smoltz, the Sox would have to either keep six starters on the roster (unlikely unless temporary), trade Penny, or place another starter on the DL (Daisuke Matsuzaka, for example). I think if Dice-K is amenable, they will go that route until they get the deal they want for Penny.

Some speculation: With the Angels’ Scot Shields needing season-ending surgery, they could be on the hunt for a bullpen arm with Major League experience. Manny Delcarmen could be a fit, as Bard appears ready to handle his role at this level. Players the Sox might have interest in on the Angels’ roster include under-utilized 3B/SS Brandon Wood and Mike Napoli, though personally I think it would take a little more to land Napoli. Gary Matthews, Jr. (a fair hitter and a good fielder) would likely be available for cheap, but he’s got a bloated contract and isn’t happy with his 4th outfielder role in LA. Bringing him here to do the same thing doesn’t make that much sense unless we have concerns about Rocco Baldelli.

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