ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Red Sox have good young pitchers. Reality or hype?
The truth lies somewhere in the middle, but on paper, there is talent. General manager Ben Cherington said in a recent interview there are 8-10 bona fide pitchers with a chance to make it to the majors.
When they get there and how they get there is a different story and hard to predict.
We believe Cherington is referring to the following: Lefthanders Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Edwin Escobar, Eduardo Rodriguez, and righthanders Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, and Rubby De La Rosa.
We saw from Webster’s Friday night performance in the Red Sox’ 4-2 victory over the Angels that it really can be a slow process toward getting everything mechanically correct. Webster’s major league experience up until Friday night had been a couple of respectable outings, but mostly poor ones.
He’s made 10 major league starts — 3-3 with a 7.40 ERA, 31 walks, and 31 strikeouts. Doesn’t sound good, but for a kid who seemed nervous during his starts a year ago and this season, Friday night was about as relaxed and poised as he’s been.
“At the end of the day, his stuff will play out and overcome everything else,” said a National League scout who watched the 24-year-old Webster.
There’s no doubt he can light up a radar gun with a fastball that reaches 95-97 miles per hour, a very good changeup and slider. Hitters rave about him, but like any young pitcher, too many of his pitches are over the heart of the plate. Pitchers can get away with more of those in Triple A than the majors. So the education of a pitcher isn’t complete until he learns how to eliminate mistakes.
De La Rosa has more of a warrior’s mentality on the mound than Webster. They both came from the Dodgers’ system and came to Boston via the Carl Crawford-Adrian Gonzalez-Josh Beckett deal. De La Rosa possesses “the goods,” with an impressive repertoire that includes a fastball that flashes in the 94-98-m.p.h. range.
The assessment of one pitching guru on De La Rosa: “Fearless. Comes right at you sometimes to his detriment. Still believe he’s a late-inning reliever who can make an impact at the end of the game and throw even harder.”
Workman impresses baseball people with his guts more than his stuff.
Roger Clemens has taken a shine to Workman, a fellow Texan.
“I love the fact that he’s always willing to learn some things as he goes along,’’ Clemens said. “I’ve been able to help him through some back channels on questions he’s had. He battles you. He doesn’t give in. I like his makeup and arm.”
Workman might be one of Boston’s bullpen pieces when all is said and done. Manager John Farrell likes Workman’s makeup and believes he is a starter. But some of the other pitchers may pass him.
Then there’s Ranaudo.
He impressed in his major league debut Aug. 1, a 4-3 win over his hometown Yankees. But he was sent right back to Pawtucket to accommodate roster moves that had to be made.
Ranaudo, a 6-foot-7-inch righthander, throws 93-94 m.p.h. with a simplified delivery. He’s learned how to pitch effectively to lefthanded hitters.
Owens, 22, is Boston’s hope as a No. 1 starter/ace. His Triple A debut last week drew rave reviews after he went 14-4 at Double A Portland. Owens isn’t a hard thrower, with a 92-93-m.p.h fastball (it got to 94 in his Triple A debut), but because of his size (6-6) he is able to utilize his delivery, coming at hitters from different angles that play tricks on them.
Owens is described as “old school” by some, “an artist’’ by another scout. People love the way he pitches and he’s one “who could pitch in the major leagues right now.” Some compare him with Bruce Hurst, another fine lefthander developed by the Red Sox.
Johnson is not far behind Owens, described by scouts as a “Tom Glavine type” who can really work the corners of the plate and is also near major league-ready.
Johnson, 23, is 9-2 with a 1.89 ERA in 17 starts at Portland and 12-3 with a 2.29 ERA overall this season. Opponents are hitting .203 against him.
Rodriguez, according to Orioles pitching director Rick Peterson, has the tools to be a No. 1 pitcher. The Red Sox made out well in the Andrew Miller deal, according to a number of GMs and evaluators who were surprised Dan Duquette dealt Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, 21, pitched a beauty Friday night for Portland. He threw six shutout innings and had nine strikeouts in a no-decision. Richmond beat the visiting Sea Dogs, 5-1.
Escobar, 22, acquired from the Giants in the Jake Peavy deal, has the ability to dial it up and pace himself through an outing. He can throw 93-94, but is usually at 90-91.
The Red Sox have four lefthanders who are either ready or within a year of hitting Fenway, which is the envy of most organizations.
As one GM pointed out, it would be nice to have one of them — the Red Sox have four.
As for the 24-year-old Barnes, he appears to have the best fastball in the organization, described as “electric” by one scout.
“If he had a better breaking ball he’d be in the majors right now, winning a lot of games,” he said.
For that reason, Barnes “has a closer’s fastball.” The Red Sox still view him as a starter.
Barnes, the former UConn star who is returning from an arm injury, pitched seven no-hit innings for Pawtucket vs. Columbus on Aug. 2, a sign of how dominating he can be with his fastball.
The Red Sox plan to keep Owens in Pawtucket for most of the PawSox’ playoff run.
The Sox will get good looks at Webster, De La Rosa, and Workman and will likely recall Ranaudo in September, and perhaps take a look at Barnes, as well.
If the Red Sox needed to win one meaningful game, one AL scout picked Johnson to pitch it among the young guns.
Although there are differing opinions on Boston’s young pitchers and where they will end up (bullpen or rotation), the bottom line for one GM was “they have more young pitching from Double A up than any organization in baseball.”
When you’ve just traded Jon Lester, that’s probably a good thing.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.