Kyle Weiland Come On Down?

So who starts in place of Jon Lester on Sunday?  Red Sox manager Terry Francona isn’t saying.

“There’s just no reason for us to do something premature,” Francona told reporters on Thursday. “We’ll see how we get through the week.  We’ll have an announcement when we think it’s appropriate.”

If it is not Alfredo Aceves who tossed two scoreless innings in relief on Thursday – but only threw 15 pitches – the most likely candidates are PawSox starters Kevin Millwood and Kyle Weiland.

Millwood is scheduled to start on Friday night at Syracuse, so the Red Sox plans would become clearer if he’s scratched in the hours leading up to the game.  If he makes the start, Millwood is eliminated and Weiland would remain a possibility.

Weiland says that he’s not spending much time thinking about it.

“You try to keep you mind focused on what you can do on the field and the other stuff will come,” Kyle told me.  “Whenever I get that call-up is up to other people – the only thing I can do is do my best every five days and hope for the best.  When it’s my time, I’ll try to be prepared and let them know that I’m ready to fill-in.”

(Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

One factor that could hurt Weiland’s chances is his contractual status, as explained by Brian MacPherson in the Providence Journal:

The only reason for the Red Sox not to promote Weiland to replace Lester is the fact that he’s not on the 40-man roster. If they add him to the 40-man roster and then send him back to Triple-A for more than 20 days, they burn one of his three option years.

If the Red Sox wait until mid-August to call Weiland up, even if he ends up going back until rosters expand on Sept. 1, they wouldn’t have to send him back to the minor leagues for more than 20 days – thus preserving the option.

On the other hand, if the Red Sox think that Weiland could play an important role as a starter or reliever at some point this year, they could promote him now to start gaining big league experience.

The 24-year-old righty is 8-6 with a 3.00 ERA after 17 Triple-A starts, with 99 strikeouts in 93 IP and an opponent’s batting average of .206.  Weiland has won each of his last 3 starts, and flirted with a no-hitter last week vs. Rochester, allowing 1 hit and 0 walks in 8 innings while striking out a career-high 12 batters.

“I came into that game and I had four pitches working right from the start,” Weiland said.  “Usually when that happens it makes the rest of the outing a little bit easier – especially when the hitters see that you have four pitches working.  When you have games like that, you take your mind out of it, you stop thinking, and you just trust your stuff and go at it.”

The folks at SoxProspects.com have elevated Weiland from their #18 prospect in Boston’s system going into the season, to #8 in early July.

“I really don’t mind not having huge hype – I think that can only hurt,” Weiland said.  “Some people do just fine with it, but I’ve enjoyed being under the radar and being able to work on my game and progress through the minor leagues.  It’s been an advantage in my eyes.”

Weiland is clearly on the radar now.  And he could be in Boston as soon as Sunday.

I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

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1 Comment

Given the uncertainty with both Buchholz and Lester, let alone the question of Lackey’s elbow and whether that’s affecting his pitching, I think there’s a reasonable chance that they could call Weiland up now and still manage not to option him for 20 days in 2011. (And even if they do burn an option on him, he’s been pitching so well that it seems like it would be worth it for his development to give him a couple of starts in the majors. If he’s ready, it’s a shame to have him waiting in AAA. If he’s only almost ready, let him face a few challenges–that has a way of really clarifying what one needs to work on! Plus it gets the first-callup jitters out of the way early.)

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