Duquette arms Red Sox with keen eye for bargain

GM's projects pay off on mound with frequency

March 10, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- How does he do it?

Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette may have rubbed Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn the wrong way, but the guy has a knack for finding a bargain pitcher.

Remember 1995, when he gambled on knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and injury-prone Erik Hanson? They won 31 games between them, and the Red Sox had a surprisingly easy time winning the American League East.

Two years ago, Duquette signed injured right-hander Bret Saberhagen, who had been a bust with the Colorado Rockies. He bounced back last year to win 15 games and help lead the Red Sox back to the playoffs.

So, when Duquette signs inconsistent Mark Portugal, journeyman starter Pat Rapp and injured Ramon Martinez, there's a pretty good chance that he knows what he's doing.

"Pitching is hard to find," Duquette said, "so we look at any pitching that's available. We've signed some pitchers who have done well for us. It worked with Wakefield and Saberhagen."

Portugal was 10-5 with a 4.44 ERA in Philadelphia last year, which means that he might do a little better for a club that scored an average of a run per game more than the Phillies.

Martinez probably won't pitch until late in the season, but the upside for next year could be huge if he is able to rebound successfully from extensive shoulder surgery.

"The recovery time is 12-14 months for pitchers having that type of surgery, so we're really looking at next year," Duquette said. "If he were to come along, it would be a good plus for this team."

It doesn't always work. The Red Sox also had high hopes for free agent Steve Avery two years ago, but didn't get their money's worth. Pete Schourek and Robinson Checo, two other recent reclamation projects, didn't pan out either.

It's not a perfect science, but Duquette apparently knows how to catch lightning in a bottle once in a while. In an era when top-level pitching talent is at a tremendous premium, that's a pretty neat trick.

Pub Date: 3/10/99

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