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Bullpen still strong despite recent hiccups.

Chris Allen

The Sox bullpen is the best in the Majors. Right now this bullpen is composed of a reliable closer, a flame-throwing rookie, a former closer, a Japanese Junkballer, two set-up men and a double play inducing machine. The pen, as it is now composed, has pitched 168 innings and struck out 155 batters. Their ERA is 2.13. The 64 base on balls they have issued is too many but basically you have to agree they have been great so far.
This past week, however, they have developed a small case of the hiccups.
On Thursday night against the Yanks, Manny Delcarmen was charged with a blown save, giving up 3 runs in the seventh inning. The next night in Philly, Ramon Ramirez blew the save, giving up a game-tying homerun to Ryan Howard. Ramirez also appeared shaky in his Wednesday appearance against the Yanks: in two-thirds of an inning he gave up 2 runs on three hits. The good thing about these three games? The Sox won all of them. Not only that but each game featured strong performances by other members of the pen. Delcarmen was picked up by Saito and Papelbon who combined for two strikeouts in two and a third innings, earning a win and a save. Ramirez struggled against the Yanks but he was relieved by Okajima who was phenominal, three strikeouts in an inning and a third, and Paps who got the save, striking out one. Ramirez may have blown the save Friday night in Philly but he was picked up Masterson, Saito and Bard. The three combined for four scoreless innings, only two hits and six strikeouts.
We cannot expect the bullpen to be successful everytimes but it is encouraging to see that when one pitcher struggles another is there to get the job done. It remains to be seen what is to become of the pen when Smoltz is activated. Will Bard get sent down? Will Dice K go back on the DL? Thursday Smotlz will pitch, either in Boston or for Pawtucket, and a decision will have to be made.

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