designated left-handed relief pitcher Scott Downs for assignment.
Downs, 38, was 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA in 38 appearances this season. Downs was working on a one-year, $4 million contract, with an option for 2015. The Sox will eat about $2 million as a result of this decision, but this is the right move to make -- especially since the $4.25 million option for next year would have vested had Downs reached 55 appearances.
Apparently, the walk Downs issued to Chris Davis in the middle of Wednesday night's eighth-inning meltdown was the final straw in what has been a string of poor performances by the washed-up lefty.
Whenever a player gets designated, it's never about one single game. Downs has been bad all season, and the Sox letting him go only reinforces the point I made after last night's loss -- why do managers feel the need to bring a left-hander into the game just because a left-handed hitter is at the plate? In particular, why bring a left-hander who has pitched so poorly that he's on the verge of release into a high-leverage situation? How is that fair to the team?
No one should be surprised that Downs failed. He's failed all year, and now he can go fail somewhere else.
Left-hander Eric Surkamp has been called up to take Downs' place on the 25-man roster. Surkamp, 26, was picked up on waivers from the San Francisco Giants in December. He was once a top prospect in the San Francisco system, before Tommy John surgery stalled his career.
In 14 games (11 starts) at Triple-A Charlotte this season, Surkamp is 3-4 with a 4.54 ERA. Those numbers might not impress, but he's been trending the right way recently. He was named the Triple-A International League Pitcher of the Week for June 16-22. He owns a 2.63 ERA over his last four starts, with 31 Ks in 24 IP.
Surkamp has posted some good peripheral numbers in the minors. He has struck out more than one batter per inning -- 84 Ks in 73.1 IP. He has walked only 17 and given up just eight home runs -- about one every nine innings -- this year. He's been throwing strikes, missing some bats and generally keeping the ball in the park. We'll see if he can make these numbers translate to the big-league level.
The left-hander has a plus curveball, which is the reason for the high strikeout total. His fastball sits in the high 80s, so he's not going to overpower anybody with that pitch. The key for Surkamp will be locating his fastball well enough to keep big-league hitters from hurting him. Then, if he's ahead in the count, he can use his breaking ball as an out pitch.
The standard isn't real high here. All he has to do is be better than Downs, and in a rebuilding season, the Sox have nothing to lose by seeing what Surkamp has to offer.