Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon expressed uncertainty about how Mets reliever Billy Wagner, for whom the Sox were awarded a waiver claim on Friday, might help the Boston bullpen. Wagner, who underwent Tommy John surgery last September, made his first major-league appearance in 11 months on Thursday, delivering a scoreless inning and striking out a pair of batters while hitting 96 mph.
Even so, Papelbon wondered whether Wagner, who has a 2.40 career ERA and 385 saves, might be able to help the Boston bullpen, given that pitchers in the early stages of their return from Tommy John often require some time before they are able to perform consistently.
"Is he ready to pitch or is he not? You know what I mean?” asked Papelbon. “I think our bullpen is good where we’re at right now. Don’t get me wrong. But I guess you could always make it better. It’s kind of like the (Eric) Gagne thing, I guess.”
Papelbon was referencing the 2007 season, in which the Sox had the best bullpen ERA in the majors thanks to the dominant work of Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen (among others). But the Sox worried about the toll of the season on Okajima especially (the Japanese lefty, in his rookie year, had to be shut down for a stretch due to fatigue), and so the Sox traded for Eric Gagne at the July 31 deadline.
At the time, in his return from Tommy John surgery in 2005, he was 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA and 16 saves. Gagne came with tremendous credentials, a former Cy Young winner who converted a record 84 straight save opportunities earlier in his career with Los Angeles. Yet stripped of the title of Rangers closer and made a set-up man for Papelbon in Boston, he fell on his face. Gagne had a 6.75 ERA in 20 appearances for the Sox, and was never effective.
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