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Results Mixed for Previous Relievers-Turned-Starters

Derek Lowe (AP)

Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine and GM Ben Cherington announced last week that RHP Daniel Bard will be used as a starter in Spring Training, to see if he would be a good fit for the rotation on a permanent basis. While I have already stated my reasons why I think that this move would be a bad idea, it is fitting to take a look at previous examples of relievers-turned-starters to see whose footsteps Bard is following in. Of course, there is a decent chance that Valentine will decide to return Bard to the bullpen for the regular season, as former Sox manager Terry Francona did with Johnathan Papelbon before the 2007 season, and Texas Rangers skipper Ron Washington did with Neftali Feliz before last year.

Derek Lowe

Lowe was used as a starter in the Seattle Mariners’ farm system before being traded to the Boston Red Sox with Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb in mid-1997. Red Sox manager Jimy Williams almost immediately moved Derek to the bullpen, where the Michigan native led the league in saves in 2000. Before the 2002 season, manager Grady Little decided that Lowe would better serve the team in the starting rotation, and it paid off immediately, as Lowe won 21 games and finished third in the AL Cy Young voting. Two years later, Lowe became the first pitcher to win the clinching games in all three playoff series as the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. The 38 year-old Lowe is entering the final year of his contract with the Atlanta Braves.

Joba Chamberlain

Rushed to the bigs by the Yankees in late 2007 just 14 months after being drafted and featuring a heater in the triple-digits, Joba Chamberlain allowed just one earned run over 24 innings to help the Yankees to a wild card spot. Joba followed this up with a spectacular rookie campaign in 2008, with a 2.60 ERA over 100.1 innings to go along with a K/9 of 12.8 as a setup man/spot starter. This success prompted Yankees emperor George Steinbrenner to command underling Joe Girardi to move Joba to the rotation on a full-time basis. Chamberlain tanked, his ERA skyrocketing to 4.75 in 2009 while pitching in 32 games, 31 of them starts. This prompted the Yankees to return Joba back to the bullpen, where his ERA returned to safe levels before undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this year.

C.J. Wilson

The California native didn’t even make his major league dĂ©but for the Texas Rangers until he was 24. He had a bad year, a mediocre year, a good year, and a bad year before a career year in 2009 as the closer. With the emergence in late 2009 of Neftali Feliz, Wilson was suddenly unneeded in the bullpen. Manager Ron Washington decided to try him as a starter, and it paid off. C.J. went 31-15 as a starter in 2010 and 2011 to help the Rangers to consecutive American League pennants, and was rewarded with a trip to the All Star Game this season. C.J. was also rewarded with a $77.5 million contract this offseason to play for his hometown Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

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