Closer Bobby Jenks is officially headed to the DL, and hopefully set-up man Scott Linebrink will quietly head back to the 8th inning.
With Jenks unofficially on the shelf for the past week, the Sox have turned to Linebrink as a temporary stopper. But after being scored upon in his last four outings, it's clear to everyone that Linebrink, a beast as a set up guy, is just not cut out for closing.
I doubt anyone needs any stats to back that up, but I spent a long time going through the whole season's game logs to come up with this so you're getting it:
Linebrink 8th inning: 27 IP, 2 ER, 0.67 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 0 HR allowed
Linebrink 9th or later: 10 IP, 8 ER, 7.20 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 5 HR allowed
Does anyone want to guess the last time Linebrink gave up an earned run in the 8th inning?
Would you believe April 15?
That's right, Tax Day, nearly three months ago, was the last time an opponent scored on Linebrink in his comfy 8th inning. That gives you a sense of how dominant the guy has been.
But apparently things change when it's the 9th or later. All five homers Linebrink has allowed have come in the 9th or later-two were walk offs, two came in save situations, and one came in that crazy suspended game vs. the Orioles in April.
It's clearly a role he's not comfortable with, and it weakens the rest of the bullpen as well. You've gone from having a lock down 8th and 9th to having question marks in both places. He needs to go back to the 8th inning before his confidence goes in the crapper. (He already proclaimed "I stink" after last night's blown save.)
So who should close in Bobby's absence?
Octavio Dotel gets a lot of attention because he has closing experience (82 career saves), but the Sox should play the hot hand and let Matt Thornton hold down the closer's role until Jenks returns. Thornton has been lights out for a while now and won't disrupt the Dotel-Linebrink 7-8th inning bridge.
Ozzie is saying he'll go with a closer by committee routine, which hopefully doesn't open the bullpen up to total anarchy. The relievers have done a masterful job so far, but for the first time in '08 they're starting to have some small issues. Jenks is injured, Linebrink is limited, Nick Masset has been hit hard lately (12 hits, 5 runs in his last 5 IP) and Dotel is on pace for his most innings pitched since 2004.
None of those issues are major yet, but they bear watching.