The St. Valentine's Weekend Massacre is now complete, as the Red Sox had a disastrous opening series in Detroit. The Saturday loss was simply a case of the Tigers taking batting practice (five homers) on the overrated Josh Beckett, but the Thursday and Sunday games were decided by Gasoline Alley, the Boston bullpen.
Mark Melancon and Alfredo Aceves were both shaky in the Thursday defeat, but they saved the worst for last. Aceves was handed a 10-7 lead in the ninth inning Sunday but promptly blew up, punctuated by Miguel Cabrera's three-run laser into the left-field seats. "That pitch was screaming 'crush me' " noted Detroit TV announcer Mario Impemba. Cabrera probably said the same thing on the bench, en español. Aceves wasn't even allowed to finish the inning; Bobby Valentine ordered a walk of shame after Miggy's blast.
Melancon got into the mix in the bottom of the 11th with a two-run cushion, but no lead is safe with these guys. Cabrera and Prince Fielder set the stage with singles (Fielder's hit was an opposite-field stroke to beat Boston's shift), and ultimately Alex Avila ended the game with a blast off the right-field railing. Instant Party on Woodward Avenue. Tigers 13, Red Sox 12.
Where do broken bullpens go? Can they find their way home?
From a medium or shallow mixed-league perspective, I'm ready to bail on both Aceves and Melancon. Aceves doesn't have any history of closing, and for better or for worse that tends to be held against a freshly-minded stopper who struggles early. He's faced five men this year and he's yet to retire anyone (three singles, one HBP, one homer).
Get me a reliever and one of those sandwich wraps (USP)Valentine seemed to steer away from Melancon in the ninth all spring, capped by the surprise Aceves appointment. You get the idea Boston prefers Melancon in the set-up role. And obviously Melancon has been ineffective in both of his 2012 appearances.
And keep in mind how Sunday's game unraveled. This wasn't a dunk into right field or a bleeder over the shortstop's head. When you allow a game-tying or a walk-off homer, you get everyone's attention. And you punch your entire dugout in the stomach.
My hunch is that Daniel Bard eventually winds up back in the Boston bullpen; maybe not this week, but sometime in the next month or two. Valentine didn't immediately discount the idea when it was mentioned Sunday evening. Franklin Morales, a lefty, is already getting high-leverage work (he was excellent in two innings Sunday) and has to be seen as a candidate, though his handedness hurts and he's also a touch wild. Brad Evans signed Morales a couple of hours ago in the Friends & Family League, and I snapped up Morales in some deep mixers as a stash-and-hope play.
There's always the chance Aceves finds his way, of course, or Melancon steadies the ship. Be ready for the usual party line in the days to follow; you might hear about found flaws in mechanics, or faith in the men on the roster. Teams have the Mad Lib ready to go for this type of situation. And just because the Boston media and fans are largely sounding an alarm doesn't mean Valentine has to.
But hey, we don't live in the real world, we live in the fantasy world. If you can drop Aceves or Melancon right now for someone with a firm leash on a closing gig, I'll sign off. Frank Francisco? Absolutely. Jim Johnson? You bet. Jonathan Broxton? Lock it down. Brett Myers? Sure. The Astros win every once in a while, too. I'm even down with Fernando Rodney, who seems like the head of the Tampa Bay committee (at minimum) while Kyle Farnsworth is out.
Your move, save chaser.