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Why Red Sox didn't call-up Durbin Feltman, Travis Lakins for bullpen

Rob Bradford
September 09, 2018 - 8:30 pm

Throughout August both Durbin Feltman and Travis Lakins were surfaced by some as minor league relief pitchers who might be called upon to help the Red Sox in the final month of the regular season and possibly beyond. Yet the Sept. 1 roster expansion came and went without either player being summoned by the big league club.

Then news came down that Matt Barnes was dealing with a left hip ailment in the midst of another downturn by the Red Sox' bullpen and the absence of additional help in the form or Feltman or Lakins (or both) seemed even more curious.

Both pitchers would have to be added to a 40-man roster that is currently full after the promotion of infielder Brandon Phillips. But Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski noted after the waiver trade deadline that a player not being on the 40-man wouldn't be a deterrent in promoting a deserving participant.

So, why no Feltman or Lakins?

In an email to WEEI.com Dombrowski wrote: "We like both of them. At this point in their careers, we did not think they would be upgrades over the pitchers we have."

On the surface, the two pitchers would have presented intriguing wild cards for a bullpen that is still trying to define itself.

After being selected in the third round of this year's draft, the 21-year-old Feltman dominated in his first 23 1/3 innings of pro ball, striking out 36 while walking just five. He finished with a 1.93 ERA and .209 batting average against, making it as high as Single-A Salem. The TCU product was considered perhaps the best candidate of all the players in the most recent draft to have a chance at the route taken by pitchers such as Chris Sale and Brandon Finnegan (also a product of TCU), who both pitched in college and the big leagues in the same year.

Lakins excelled at both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, having been shifted from starter to reliever early in the season. In his 10 outings with the PawSox (16 1/3 innings) the righty posted a 1.65 ERA and .186 batting average against. The 24-year-old will also undoubtedly be added to the 40-man roster in the offseason in order to not expose him to the Rule 5 Draft.

Besides Dombrowski's explanation regarding the Red Sox' decision to not promote either pitcher, team sources offered additional reasons.

While there was talk around baseball and in the media regarding the chance Feltman might be fast-tracked to the big leagues, such a plan was never broached inside the organization.

The concern with Lakins involved an injury history that included ending both his 2016 and 2017 seasons in July due to stress fractures in his throwing elbow. Even though his workload was limited to 54 1/3 innings this season, the Red Sox were hesitant to push their 2016 fifth-round pick with what could be an additional two months of high-stress, big-league outings.

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