Sometimes, it takes starting pitching prospects with live arms longer to reach their Major League potential than minor leaguers who don’t have overpowering offerings. A prime example is Red Sox left-hander Franklin Morales, who limited Minnesota to one run and three hits in six innings on Sunday, improving to 3-1 with a 3.06 ERA in six starts for a club in dire need of reliable rotation arms.
Entering the 2008 season, Morales was ranked No. 8 on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects List. He was featured ahead of other highly regarded lefties like David Price, Gio Gonzalez and Brett Anderson. The Rockies were understandably encouraged about his future after he was 3-2 with a 3.43 ERA in eight starts at the end of 2007, when the club caught fire and raced all the way to the World Series.
Morales was 21 at the time, and it appeared that the pitching-starved Rockies had a potential top of the rotation arm for the long term.
A lack of command, and an abundance of walks, were the downfall for Morales in Colorado. He also encountered an array of shoulder and back issues, leading the team to move him from the rotation to the bullpen.
After a 7-11 record and a 4.83 ERA over 102 games (including 15 starts) in parts of five seasons with the Rockies, Morales was traded to Boston in May 2011. The Red Sox used him solely as a reliever, and he was effective, posting a 3.62 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 36 games.
Under new manager Bobby Valentine, Morales was not considered for a starting role in spring training. Instead, the team opted to insert 24-year-old left-hander Felix Doubront and reliever-turned-starter Daniel Bard into the rotation.
The Bard experiment was a disaster, and he was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket to work on his mechanics. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have been ineffective, and overall the Red Sox rotation has been a disappointment and a key reason why the club is 54-55 and 10 games behind the Yankees in the American League East.
Morales has been one of the few bright spots among Red Sox starting pitchers. In his six starts, he has a 3.06 ERA to accompany his 3-1 record, and he has held opposing hitters to a .210 average. Morales has 35 strikeouts in 32.1 innings, and has allowed 27 hits. What the Red Sox are especially encouraged about is his 1.11 WHIP as a starter and an overall WHIP of 1.16. Morales had four strikeouts and three walks on Sunday, and in his six starts he has issued just 11 walks.
With a fast ball that stays in the mid-90s and has movement, and a mix that also includes a plus curve ball and change-up, Morales has the arsenal to thrive as a starter or a late-inning reliever. Likely, with the rotation problems Boston has encountered this season, he will get more starts, even though Beckett is scheduled to start on Wednesday.
Morales was given the start on Sunday because Beckett left his outing last Tuesday in the third inning with back spasms.
The Red Sox have been bolstered by the resurgence of Clay Buchholz, who has a 2.21 ERA over his last 10 starts, and a respectable year from Doubront, who is 10-5 with a 4.56 ERA. If Morales is added to the rotation, Boston will have four arms under 30, and three lefties (including Jon Lester).
Boston Red Sox News – David Ortiz (Achilles) confirmed that he will not be activated from the disabled list this weekend. The Red Sox was scratched Josh Beckett (back) from Sunday’s start. John Lackey (elbow) doesn’t expect to pitch this year.