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Who’s Going to the Bullpen?

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Who’s Going to the Bullpen In October For The Boston Red Sox?

You’re fooling yourself if you don’t think that the Red Sox will be sending a left-handed starter to the bullpen, come October. Boston’s going to need at least 1 more late-inning southpaw to navigate around playoff caliber line-ups. The only question is: Who will it be?

Recently John Farrell alluded to this bullpen deficiency when commenting on the injury-status of exorbitantly paid lefty David Price. As you may have heard, Price has been making strides towards a regular season return on the mound. He threw a simulated game against Sox hitters last Wednesday. Purportedly he had all his stuff working nicely.

If David Price is to make such an expeditious return (what a fighter), it would come right on the threshold of the playoffs. John Farrell has been asked whether Price could be pitching out of the bullpen in October. His response: “At this point, you can’t rule that out.”

You have to see where Farrell is coming from here. The Sox have just 2 lefty pseudo-specialists in the pen. I tenuously concede that title, to these 2 guys, simply because they’re left-handed pitchers. We’re talking about Robby Scott and Fernando Abad here. That’s it. Those names don’t exactly inspire confidence, do they?

What Is

That’s right, at this juncture, the Red Sox are relying on 2 left-handed pitchers to come out of the bullpen in high leverage situations. The problem lies with the fact that both Scott and Abad are not utilized, nor do they present any real threat, against left-handed hitters.

Fernando Abad has had a good, if not a super-solid year for the Sox as a 7th inning arm. In 42 games, he has a 2.68 ERA. Awesome, for a guy who is just the epitome of mediocrity. What should somewhat concern fans is his ERA against left-handed hitters. It’s actually a tick higher than the mean. Against batters from the same side, Abad has a 2.81 ERA. He has 8 innings fewer, recorded against lefties than he does against righties in 2017. This betrays his role out of the pen. Abad is a general 7th inning guy. He is not the invariable shutdown southpaw that the Red Sox need to face left-handed hitters in critical October situations.

Robby Scott is a middling and shriveling hose on the mound (look at this goofball’s arm slot). Good ol’ “Bob O” is slinging with a 4.05 ERA out of the bullpen. You could call Scott Boston’s lefty-specialist, but he has an inherent weakness. This is something that will definitely rear its repugnant head in the playoffs: His ERA is 7.20 on the road. Ouch! So theoretically, Robby Scott’s only dependable for about half a postseason series.

Thus something’s gotta change.

What Could Be

As our buddy John Farrell suggested, David Price could find himself, in some capacity, pitching out of the bullpen when he returns. Now don’t forget that Farrell has a multitude of options on the table when it comes to the delegation of this staff. Expect to see a roulette-wheel of arms, or a “next man up” sort of rotation in October. It should be fun to watch.

There are 3 guys, Price being one, who are eligible to lead the staff as the “lefty” in the pen.

This youngster has the most untarnished promise: Eduardo Rodriguez. That’s right, E-Rod has already demonstrated his ability and willingness to relieve. Well, kinda. He has pitched 1 inning in relief, in his entire career. In this inning, Rodriguez struck out 2 while giving up not a single hit nor a run. What makes him an enticing option, is that he is still young. This implies that there’s some pliability left in that athlete-psychology of his. If Sox management sells it to the kid tactfully, this move to the pen could have some permanence to it. As a starter, he has a 4.28 career ERA. It’s never too late to find your calling E-Rod!

Drew Pomeranz is another left-handed starter to seriously consider as a bullpen arm, in the postseason. This guy was a full-time reliever in 2015, with the Oakland A’s. That year, he had a 2.61 ERA in 44 games. What amplifies his allure as a potential reliever: His ERA was 2.12 against lefties. Some may be deterred by his underwhelming performance in the 2016 postseason. Last year, in the Cleveland series, Pomeranz pitched 3.2 innings of relief and gave up 2 ER’s. Conversely, he had 7 K’s. These bad numbers were probably a symptom of the nervousness that Pomeranz was experiencing. He was pitching in his first couple and the only, postseason games of his career. Pomeranz is certainly worth another shot.

Lastly, we come to David Price. He is the volatile and toxic pitcher that the Red Sox have handcuffed themselves to for seasons to come. Dave Dombrowski is still desperately trying to produce a bang for his buck with this guy.

General soreness has plagued Price up and down, to his fingertips, since this past Spring. With about 3 weeks left in the regular season, and with Price situated to return after a few more rehab sessions, a decision has to be made. What do you do with this expensive lefty in October?

You can hear it screaming from the tonality of all of David Price’s press conferences: He wants to be loved. But there is also boisterous, yet half-repressed, ego here. Asking a Cy Young winning starter to go to the bullpen is a delicate task. You could kindle an inextinguishable conniption fit, the likes of which we’ve never seen. But if Farrell can spin-doctor the proposal in such a way as to make Price feel like the hero, we might have ourselves a weapon to capitalize on.

Back in 2008, coming out of the bullpen for Tampa, David Price had a 1.58 ERA in 5.2 innings pitched. And this was in the postseason! He was just a wee-little rookie back then. Since these successful relief appearances, which he made nearly a decade ago, Price has established a horrendous track-record in October.

The Hand You’re Dealt

Again, with David Price, the best approach would be to stroke the ace’s ego, when explaining this prospective move to the pen. Pitch it to him like he’d be putting Boston on his back. If the Sox can strategically delay Price’s return, John Farrell could even construe it as a short “rehabilitation period”. You know, just to get things in motion; to shake off the rust David. If I was Price, I would be grateful for any opportunity to restart with a clean slate in October.

As the Red Sox rotation is constituted, practically 70% of their starters are left-handed. Surely a bullpen assignment is on the horizon, for one of these southpaws. With a surplus of starters, the Sox can afford to spin the carousel of this rotation. It’s foreseeable that a right-hander and a left-hander could end up splitting a postseason game almost evenly. Stigmatic honor aside, what matters is the win, not who’s the pitcher on record.

John Farrell is certainly worthy of some sympathy: His bullpen resolution will be a difficult one to reach. Boston has a bunch of cantankerous and talented starter’s here, and all of them want to shine. David Price is the lefty who would be the most suited for a stint in the bullpen. Such a reintroduction would coddle him back into his preferred role as a starter. Farrell admittedly is toying with this exact notion. Let’s just hope that Price is flexible enough to do what’s asked of him.

Columnist operating out of Manchester, NH. Retired pitcher (unprofessional not amateur). Voracious consumer of all things Celtics and Red Sox. Sometimes I produce content as well.

Boston Red Sox

Bottom Line: Boston Red Sox Need Stanton

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Boston Red Sox Team President Dave Dombrowski isn’t a great talent evaluator. Throughout his entire career, he has built his success by acquiring proven big league talent. Betting on that changing anytime soon is foolish, so why not make another move for proven talent?

Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins has long been rumored to be on the trade block and Boston is just one of his potential destinations. Reports have stated thought that Stanton would prefer a trade to a team like the Dodgers despite “advisers” pushing for Boston.

The Stanton vs Judge potential is enough to get any baseball fans heart racing. But should Boston present Miami a god offer? Some have balked at the potential of trading any more prospects but let me tell you a very well known secret, Boston’s farm system has been pillaged. Jay Groome and Michael Chavis are considered the best two prospects remaining under Dombrowski.

So any thought of depleting the farm system anymore should be tossed out the window as there isn’t much left there, to begin with. On top of that, the current makeup of the team and the organization is winning now, a strategy that is far from working given the current talent in the lineup. Last season the Red Sox lacked true pop in their lineup after the retirement of David Ortiz. Many at the time sold it as the 2015 Royals who nickeled and dimed their way to a world series title. But when it came down to it the 2017 Boston Red Sox lacked balls.

Boston needs a power bat in the heart of their order. Not just for the home runs from that player, but for the protection they would offer the other hitters in the lineup. If you were a pitcher facing the Red Sox last season almost every hitter in the lineup could be pitched too. The only exception might be Hanley Ramirez, but the BIG HR simply was set up to fail to have to step in for Ortiz with no protection around him.

Stanton would instantly bring in pop, lineup protection, and the much needed “it” factor that will help drive fans to the team. Without this type of move, it is hard to see how next season will be any different.

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Boston Red Sox

Minimum Expectations for the 2018 Red Sox

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Last year, it was Chris Sale; in 2016, the exorbitantly expensive David Price was all the hype. Both of these roundly heralded saviors produced the same underwhelming results. Another short-winded trip to the playoffs; another bummer of a year.

The Red Sox simply cannot afford a third consecutive first-round exit, in the 2018 postseason. And it seems that Dave Dombrowski knows this. In an attempt to prevent car-flipping anarchy in the streets, he fired the overseer of all this recent failure (his direct subordinate) – John Farrell.

Now the Sox will be heading into next season with a newfangled remedy. No, it’s not a hundred-million dollar player. This time around, management has received the upgrade. It’s the newly hired manager, Alex Cora, who will be charged with the burden of resurrecting one of the most venerated franchises in professional sports.

On Monday, Cora was formally introduced to Boston as the new manager (or scapegoat).

Good luck, buddy! You’re gonna need it.  

Should Boston fans really expect an appreciable change to be affected by just one man? After all, this is exactly what we’ve done, to no avail, for the past few years. And if Cora really represents the end-all-be-all solution, what is a realistic accomplishment for him, and his club, in the first season of his tenure?

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Boston Red Sox

Like Looking in the Mirror

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Red Sox

After watching the Houston Astros win the 2017 World Series, Red Sox fans deserve to be upset.

Go ahead and sink into your bed of indignance, for a couple of days, and don’t let anyone stop you, Red Sox Nation. You’re safe there.  

The asseveration has lingered on the tip of Boston’s tongue, ever since the ALDS – “That could have been us!” And it’s true, it could have been the Sox hoisting that trophy, on Wednesday night.

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