Early on this season, Bostonians would have been hard pressed to suggest that pitching would be a bright spot in the Red Sox repertoire entering July. In recent weeks, the performances of Aaron Cook and Franklin Morales, in spot-start roles, have provided momentary excitement for Sox fans and a midseason burst of energy to power Boston further above .500 than they have been at any point this season.
Cook, whom the Red Sox defeated in the 2007 World Series while he was a starter with Colorado, joined the Boston squad in January to audition as a potential fifth starter before starting the season on a triple-A roster. His first chance with the big club in 2012 did not come until a spot start for Josh Beckett at the beginning of May. Despite a strong first two innings, Cook was unable to finish the third after a collision at the plate that resulted in a trip to the DL with 11 stitches in his knee.
In the two starts since his return, Cook is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA; his strongest start coming Friday night in Seattle when he pitched a complete-game shutout on just 81 pitches. Cook also only allowed two earned runs in his previous start at home against Atlanta.
Joining Cook in the past month is 2011 midseason acquisition Franklin Morales. Also a member of the ’07 Rockies, Morales emerged early on as the only consistent pitcher in the Red Sox tumultuous bullpen. As manager Bobby Valentine struggled to help groove roles for his relievers, Morales settled in ahead of interim closer Alfredo Aceves as a strong eighth-inning option. While other relievers wavered at times, Morales also appeared in long relief for young starters like Felix Doubront, Daniel Bard and Clay Buchholz. In effect, Morales has provided the same versatility in 2012 that Aceves produced for the Red Sox in 2011.