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After missing out on former Twins relievers Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain and former Blue Jay Scott Downs, the Red Sox looked to build their future 2011 bullpen by looking back in signing old friend Lenny DiNardo to a minor league deal. With multiple spots in the bullpen up for grabs, DiNardo would be penciled in as one of the team’s lefthanded relievers currently, but there’s a lot of Hot Stove action yet to play out. DiNardo should compete for a spot though with former Oriole Matt Albers in Spring Training.
With the Red Sox from 2004-2006, DiNardo posted a 1-3 record with a 5.53 ERA in 43 games as a starter and reliever. The next year in 2007, DiNardo had the best year of his career with the A’s under then-pitching coach Curt Young (the current Sox pitching coach). In that season, DiNardo went 8-10 with a 4.11 ERA in 35 appearances (20 starts).
“[Young] really helped me focus on using my changeup more. And I attribute that whole year to that pitch basically,” DiNardo told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “Up to that point I was mainly just a fastball, cutter guy and I’d throw more curveballs and changeups and in 2007 what turned me around was that I would throw a changeup in any count. If I threw 100 pitches previous to 2007 I’d throw less than 10 changeups and in a few of the games in 2007 if I were to throw 100 pitches it was boosted up to 35 changeups.”
DiNardo struggled in the majors in 2008 with the A’s and 2009 with the Royals, spending much of his time in the minor leagues (he spent all of 2010 there).
The Red Sox still can go after other relievers on the market (Brian Fuentes, Dan Wheeler), but it doesn’t seem they will get any of the top releivers on the market because they will not give a reliever a three-year deal. Why should they? Besides Mariano Rivera and a handful of other relievers, what relief pitcher is consistently solid year-in, year-out?
As a result, the Red Sox missed out on Crain, who inked a three-year deal with the White Sox, Guerrier, who signed a three-year pact with the Dodgers, and Downs, who signed on for three years with the Angels. Because the Yankees missed out on Cliff Lee, they may be in the market for multiple relievers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they offered a three-year deal to anyone left out there.
DiNardo and Albers, while seemingly insignificant signings, could turn out to be a surprisingly good fit for the Sox bullpen. Middle relief is such a crap shoot, as sometimes teams strike gold with the cheapest free agents or lower-tiered minor leaguers.