The Red Sox Biggest Mystery? How Does This Bullpen Succeed?

By Ted Gay – @TedG63

There are not many things that Red Sox fans agree about.  But most thought the Red Sox biggest need at the deadline was another arm in the bullpen.  Nathan Eovaldi was a strong middle of the rotation picks up. His flaw has been lack of consistency which hopefully will be helped by a lineup that can generate runs in clusters. Ian Kinsler has, from his college days, been a lesser version of Dustin Pedroia  With Pedey out for the year Kinsler is the closest to Pedroia the Sox will get.  Defensively, he is a big upgrade over Eduardo Nunez and, after a terrible spring, his offense has improved.

Alex Cora has shown a Belichickian ability to get the most out of each player on the roster.  For the first three-and-a-half months of the season, the reason Blake Swihart stayed with the organization was an enigma. Since Christian Vasquez’s injury, Swihart has become an invaluable swiss army knife.  Cora likes role players with flexibility. When Swihart and Vasquez, both return from the DL Vazquez, because he is tied to one position may find himself in Pawtucket.

Cora is using the same philosophy with the bullpen that he has with the lineup. Everyone is involved and can be used at any point.   With two months left in the season, there is no consistent eighth-inning reliever. Joe Kelly gained and lost the role. Matt Barnes has the most eighth-inning appearances, but no one would be surprised to see  Heath Hembree, Tyler Thornburg, Ryan Braiser or Kelly, in that role. Cora may be relying on analytics.  The Sox record proves whatever Cora’s bullpen philosophy is it has worked during the regular season. If the strategy is successful in the playoffs remains to be seen.

Sox fans have two worries:  A Chris Sale long-term injury, and watching Barnes, Kelly, Hembree, Thornburg or Braiser blowing an eighth-inning lead in a deciding game.

Yes, Sox fans would have more confidence with a proven arm in the eighth inning, but there is no way knowing if any of the relievers bandied about in trade talks would be more trustworthy than what they have now. Someone different doesn’t mean someone better.

The answer to the playoff bullpen question may come from the rotation.  Will Eduardo Rodriguez be put in the bullpen when he returns from injury?  He could be a considerable presence in late innings if he can adapt to the role. Will it be Eovaldi?  He wasn’t brought to Boston to be left off the playoff roster. Will it be Drew Pomeranz and will he drive Sox fans off the edge of the Quincy quarry like lemmings?  Or will Dombrowski be able to snare a top reliever in a waiver wire deal?

Right now, maybe it is better just to let this Magical Mystery Tour of a season continue.  When all your team does is win, win, win it might be best not to ask questions and just enjoy the ride.



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