Justin Masterson

Update: Masterson suffering from “fatigue” according to Farrell

Update: May 13, 3:00 pm PT

Well, it didn’t take long for Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell to decide what to do with Justin Masterson. Masterson who, as described in the original text below, struggled mightily against the Oakland Athletics Tuesday night has already been scratched from his Sunday start against the Seattle Mariners.

Steven Wright. Getty Images.

The likely candidate to take his place is long-reliever and knuckleballer Steven Wright, who finished the game Tuesday, after Masterson allowed six runs in just 2.1 innings. Although Farrell said that no final decision on the matter would be announced until Thursday. 

Farrell hasn’t yet but expects to Masterson on the disabled list citing “fatigue” as the reason. Boston’s medical staff has been unable to find any real medical issues with Masterson who has struggled in his last four starts, letting his ERA climb to 6.37. 

Masterson, who expressed that he had no intention of leaving the Red Sox starting rotation after Tuesday night’s game, was openly displeased with the decision. 

“I’m not real happy about it. I’m mad,” said Masterson. “Like I said yesterday, I hold true — just the fact that I felt like we could make the adjustment and get back out there and really be fine. It didn’t happen. It comes a time with this team when we’re starting to pick it up, but it’s one of those where if we’re doing great, I probably get a little more leeway. The last two starts have been different than the first five. I can’t deny that fact. By all means, as I told him, I’m not real happy about the decision.”

Farrell and his staff felt as if they had no choice but to basically bench Masterson until he is officially placed on the disabled list. 

“After he went through a full exam and workup here this morning … there’s not one specific area to the arm or shoulder that is a cause or reason why we’re seeing reduced velocity and reduced action. There’s some fatigue that’s involved,” Farrell said.

Masterson may not be happy about it but it’s not his choice to make. Until further notice, Masterson is not on the DL but he is definitely not starting on Sunday.

Original Text: May 12, 2015 11:15 pm PT

Red Sox Unsure of what to do with struggling Masterson

Oakland Athletics have the worst record in baseball. It wouldn’t be for the first time in this century that they have started the season this badly, but things have not been going well. 

Then Tuesday night the A’s rocked Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Justin Masterson for six runs in just 2.1 innings at which point Boston skipper John Farrell thought it prudent to remove Masterson from the game.

Stephen Vogt. Getty Images.
Stephen Vogt. Getty Images.

He had allowed six hits and six earned runs while only being able to get seven outs. Those six hits included a double to Eric Sogard, a triple to Marcus Semien and home runs to both Stephen Vogt and Josh Reddick.

The 30-year-old right-hander’s ERA ballooned up to a very high 6.37, partially a product of the 2.1 innings he pitched at O.Co Coliseum Tuesday night and of his last four starts in which he got two no-decisions and two losses, in that order.

Masterson was replaced by knuckballer Steven Wright who finished the final 5.2 innings of the game. To be fair to the struggling A’s, he allowed the A’s to get six more hits and score three more runs. One on a home run off the bat of  Semien, something that isn’t an easy feat once the coastal marine layer has settled in for the night at Oakland’s O.Co Coliseum.

So, is it that the A’s are finally beginning to turn their season around? Yes, they’ve lost quite a few games but 11 of them have been close one-run games and offense hasn’t seemed to be their big problem.

Their defects have come in the form of sloppy defense and the bullpen’s inability to hold onto leads handed to them by A’s starters, something that did not happen in this particular game despite facing a potent Boston offense.

The A’s defense was on point Tuesday night, with the exception of one error by Semien at shortstop. Starter Drew Pomeranz went seven innings, giving way to Fernando Rodriguez and Dan Otero. The two relievers combined for two scoreless innings and the A’s losing streak was over.

Leaving the Red Sox to question if  Masterson is injured? Or is something mental going on? They’re even questioning whether or not he should remain in the starting rotation.

Drew Pomeranz. Brian Mangin/Getty Images

Yes, the A’s could be putting things together but at the same time the problem Tuesday night may have been Masterson and Masterson alone, as far as the Red Sox are concerned.

A former All-Star with the Cleveland Indians in 2013, Masterson has also had a troubled recent past. Near the end of the 2013 season he suffered a severe oblique tear that led to a shoulder impingement and later he also suffered from knee inflammation.

Masterson’s velocity has been dropping ever since. He’s even been having a hard time reaching the high 80’s with his fastball.

When asked about his velocity after the game, Masterson said,

“Today was really disappointing. I was laboring a little too much to be getting 86s and 87s out there. Last game I was laboring, see 89, OK. I go back to the idea it wasn’t comfortable, as far as mechanics, to say, ‘Here we go,’ and even at 88 and 89 get behind the ball.”

So even Masterson isn’t sure what is going on with his own body. Farrell has alluded to the idea that even if the Red Sox medical staff can’t find a medical reason for Masterson’s recent struggles, that he may still be removed from the starting rotation. 

When signing Masterson to a one-year $9.5 million contract, the Red Sox felt that his sinker/slider combination would make up for any deficiencies in his lack of velocity. That theory, however, cannot possibly hold up if the right-hander can’t place his pitches.

“Consistency to the action of pitches,” Farrell said seems to be a big part of the issue. “The sink isn’t as abrupt as it’s entering the hitting zone. The action of those pitches are a little bit longer and, obviously, easier for hitters to adjust to.”

On the whole Tuesday night was likely a combination of the A’s finally showing signs of life along with Masterson’s inability to locate his most important pitches.

Still, the Red Sox do have cause for concern as this was not the only time Masterson has faltered. Unfortunately,there may be a struggle coming for Farrell and his staff.

Masterson made it quite clear that he wouldn’t be relinquishing his spot in the starting rotation if there is nothing medically wrong with him. Ultimately, of course, that’s not his decision but he could make this harder on the Red Sox than it needs to be.

Masterson doesn’t seem to  think that he’s gone as far downhill as his 6.37 ERA shows he has. He said he felt he’s only just taken a step back and that the situation is not that dire.

“I think I’m more than capable, simply because coming into today I really don’t think it’s anything too extreme at this point,” he said. “I think right now, we’ve taken quite a few steps forward, maybe now we’re taking one back, but l still think it’s a point maybe you have to go back a second to continue to go forward. That’s why I don’t really think time off right now would be great.”

Yet after losing, and losing badly to the team with the worst record in the league, Masterson may be the one who needs to rethink his words. The Red Sox won’t put up with, and their bullpen won’t be able to handle, too much more of this from Masterson.

So, what will John Farrell do next? Only he can say and it doesn’t appear he’s ready to make that decision.

He’ll have to figure it out soon, however. Today the Red Sox face A’s ace Sonny Gray and Masterson is scheduled to start again in four days.

Farrell should probably begin worrying about his team’s own record becoming the league’s worst, unless he figures out what the deal is with Masterson.

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