The Red Sox bullpen was viewed as their biggest asset going into the 2013 season, and that is statement is farthest from truth on July 19th. The Sox had a deadly 7th, 8th, 9th combination with 3 guys who had closer experience. People lauded over this pen that would only force the Sox starters to go only 6 innings and still feel comfortable giving the ball over. Koji Uehara, Andrew Bailey, and Joel Hanrahan made up this super bullpen, but now only Uehara remains. Early in the season the Sox lost Hanrahan who had nearly every type of elbow surgery possible. Today John Farrell announced that Bailey has “pretty significant” damage to his shoulder and surgery is a possibility. If Bailey opts for the surgery he’ll be sidelined for approximately 12 months. If he decides just to rehab the shoulder, it’s still unlikely he’ll return before the season ends. Either scenario shows that the Sox search for another bullpen arm should be intensified. For now, Jose De La Torre will fill the void left by Bailey, but I doubt he’s the permanent fix.
Two guys, who appear to be long shots at best, have been added to the fold. Today the Sox announced the signings of Jose Contreras and Brandon Lyon. Both relievers have been assigned to AAA Pawtucket. Lyon, a former Red Sox, was pitching with the Mets earlier this year. Over 34.1 innings he posted a 4.98 ERA before getting released. Contreras, was with Pirates to begin this season pitching just 7 innings in 5 games with an ERA of 9.00 before getting sent to AAA Indianapolis. In his 19.1 innings in AAA he was dominant with a .0.93 ERA and 11.17 K/9. The Pirates released him and now he’s here hoping for an opportunity. WEEI’s Michael Holley speculated that this could be an attempt to lure top Cuban pitching prospect Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to sign with the Sox. Gonzalez is likely to make a decision this week, and a chance to pitch alongside Jose Contreras would be alluring to a Cuban, but it’s not likely to be a deciding factor. Either way Lyon and Contreras are likely just depth moves to help with the depleted bullpen.
- Andrew Bailey likely out for the season, may need shoulder surgery (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- The Red Sox sign Jose Contreras and Brandon Lyon (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Boston Red Sox: All-Star break report card (isportsweb.com)
Tonight’s 3-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays has created a bit of stir. It seemed like the pen was working as it has been for the past few weeks with Tazawa finishing off the seventh and Uehara pitching the eighth. Then things got interesting when everyone saw Joel Hanrahan warming up to pitch the ninth rather than Andrew Bailey. This caused mass confusion as everyone searched for answers, and at first they found none. Hanrahan would come on to close out the game and after giving up a hit to start off the inning, he got a pop out and a double play to get him out of the inning. Following the game it was revealed that Bailey was suffering from bicep soreness, the same injury that landed John Lackey on the DL the last time the Sox were in Toronto. It appears he injury is minor, but you can never know for sure. Hopefully he can avoid a DL stint, but if he does avoid it who is the closer?
Joel Hanrahan was brought to Boston to be a closer. Unfortunately for him, things haven’t gone so smoothly. He’s given up 7 runs in 6.2 innings posting a 9.45 ERA with 4 strikeouts and 5 walks. He has converted 4 saves in 5 attempts though, so he was come through when needed most of the time. He was also sidelined with a hamstring injury, which he believes was the source of his pitching woes. I hope that’s true because if Hanrahan pitches anywhere near the way he did while “injured” I have no faith in him going forward. He did pass his first real test since coming back, but it was a little shaky, but it’s steps in the right direction. If he wants to ever be able to fully take back his closer role from Bailey, he’ll need to return to his 2011 form. 2011 was his breakout year where he saved a career best 40 games with a 1.83 ERA in 68.2 innings allowing just 14 earned runs all year. He also posted the lowest BB/9 of career, 2.1, and his lowest WHIP, 1.049. The following year he lost a lot of the control that made him the dominant reliever that he was in 2011 with his BB/9 sky rocketing to 5.2. We are starting to see that here so far this year as it seems as if sometimes his command will disappear for a couple pitches and then suddenly return. This volatile pitching isn’t what you want in the ninth with the game on the line because you need to be able to come up with a big pitch at any given time, but he can’t command his pitches he could find himself loading up the bases pretty quickly. Overall though, Hanrahan hasn’t been completely awful. He’s made the pitches when he’s needed to (most of the time) and has carried himself well through this whole mess.
Andrew Bailey was also brought here to close, but after an injury plagued season and less than stellar performances in his few appearances, it appeared as if Andrew Bailey would never get a chance to close in Boston again. Luckily, for him, the man tasked with closing out games hit the DL and allowed him to show Red Sox Nation he’s still a viable closer. Unfortunately Hanrahan has returned and Bailey has found himself injured and his stint as closer may be short lived, but is Bailey the better choice. The former Rookie of the Year compiled 3 solid years for the Oakland A’s striking out 174 batters in 174 innings while posting a 2.07 ERA with 75 saves. What I like about Bailey being the strikeout machine that he is, is that he doesn’t rely on the hitter not to square up his pitch, but he relies on his swing and miss stuff. That’s the best way to stop a team, because if they can’t hit than there’s nothing they can do. Bailey has pitched well this year picking up 5 saves in 6 attempts and in his only blown save he was able to tightrope out of tough spot and ended up picking up the win. All in all, when he’s Bailey could be one of, if not the, best reliever in the game.
Overall looking at both of them I think it’s a no-brainer, Andrew Bailey should be the Red Sox closer. He’s not only been the better pitcher this year, but has shown that he has a much more consistent track record. I have much more trust in Bailey right now than I do in Hanrahan so I believe that’s the direction the Sox’s should go. What’s your opinion?
- Joel Hanrahan’s Injury Continues to Linger in Back of Closer’s Mind, Creating ‘Frustrating’ Situation (nesn.com)
- BoSox take series from Blue Jays, win 20th game (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
- Red Sox activate Joel Hanrahan, but will he resume closing? (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
When John Lackey landed on the DL with a right bicep strain, the Red Sox decided to call up reliever Alex Wilson to add some length to the bullpen with Alfredo Aceves moving to the starting rotation. A lot has changed since then, Lackey has returned, Aceves is gone, Daniel Bard and Ryan Lavarnway have both had brief cups of coffee with the team, and Joel Hanrahan hit the DL and since returned. Through all of that Alex Wilson has been there and pitched surprisingly well. In 6 appearances he’s pitched 6 shutout innings allowing just 4 hits and 3 walks and has struck out 4. Now he hasn’t pitched in any high leverage situations, but still numbers he’s still been impressive. Clayton Mortensen whose been in a similar role has not pitched quite as well. In 7 appearances he’s pitched 9.2 innings allowing 6 runs on 9 hits and 2 walks and has struck out 11. So the question is once the team is fully healthy could Alex Wilson still be with the team? Alfredo Aceves is gone leaving an open bullpen spot and he’s out-pitched another pitcher in a similar role, so I believe he has the ability to remain with the team and contribute in an even bigger role than he’s in right now. We’ll find out soon out his fate with Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales both returning soon. I hope that he will survive the return of the two lefties and continue to contribute to the team.
- Red Sox Place Lackey On DL, Call Up Alex Wilson (boston.cbslocal.com)
- Victorino has lower-back inflammation (mlb.mlb.com)
- Are Red Sox equipped for injury to John Lackey? (boston.com)
- Red Sox option Dan Butler and Alex Wilson (boston.com)
Dempster (0-1) v. Arrieta (0-1)
Today was Ryan Dempster’s first home start in Fenway Park. Unfortunately the weather didn’t want to cooperate much. The game didn’t start off too well. He gave up a single to start the game and miscommunication between Ellsbury and Victorino led to second and third with no outs. Dempster got out of the jam only allowing a run, but it put the team behind nevertheless. He then looked to settle in until the fourth when he gave up a homer to Nick Markakis and Adam Jones scored on a Jackie Bradley Jr. error. Dempster’s day would end after the fifth due to a rain delay.
On the other side Jake Arrieta struggled with his command. His pitches were all over the place, but he was able to get outs with his pitches that did find the strike zone. His first issues arose in the second after he gave up a 2 out walk to Daniel Nava, Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled off the Monster to score Nava from first. The Sox would then strike for 2 more the next inning to take the lead, but that was short lived as the Sox faltered in the fourth as I mentioned earlier. All in all Arrieta walked 4 and gave up 3 runs in 5 innings. His start was also cut short due to the rain.
Coming out of the rain delay, the game was tied and former Oriole, Koji Uehara, took the hill. He delivered a solid 1,2,3 inning. Then Tommy Hunter took over for Arrieta and proceeded to let up back to back homers to Daniel Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia giving the Sox a 5-3 lead that would until the ninth.
In the ninth Farrell handed the ball to closer Joel Hanrahan, who was looking for career save 100. He started the ninth the same way he did on Monday, with a home run. I was sitting there thinking, “Is he trying to do his best Papelbon impression and give us all a heart attack every night?” He then got the next two batters out and I relaxed a bit. Then Ryan Flaherty stepped up to the plate looking for his first hit in his 18th at bat. Of course he pokes it through the hole between short and third. Then pinch runner Alexi Casilla stole second and Nolan Reimold walks. Then Nate McLouth stepped in and on a 2-2 count Hanrahan threw a pitch in the same spot that had been called a strike earlier that at bat, and it was called a ball. I was outraged. It was clearly a strike. Then the next pitch could of gone either way, but unfortunately it went in favor of Baltimore. Then phenom Manny Machado comes to the plate bases loaded in a one run game. Then the worst possible thing that could have happened, happened. Wild pitch. Game tied. Now Hanrahan just needs to get us to the bottom of the ninth, but the next pitch is crushed for a 3 run homer to make it an 8-5 game. Andrew Miller came in after and finished the inning. Jim Johnson would come in for the O’s. He has a 1,2,3 inning and the Orioles win.
This was the biggest disappointment thus far, but these games happen, but Hanrahan worries me. I fear this could be a trend and that’s the last thing we want. Hopefully I’m wrong and he’s as dominate as he was in 2011.
Player of the Game: Jarrod Saltalamacchia 3 for 4, 2 RBIs, 2 2B, HR
8 games down 154 to go
Buchholz (1-0) v. Chen (0-0)
The Sox held their home opener today at Fenway Park and it did not disappoint. There was a great pitching duel and an exciting finish to the game.
If you’re one of those people you hate pitching duels and only love offense, you would’ve hated this game. Clay Buchholz and Wei-Yin Chen both had their best stuff going for them today and when those guys are on it’s a fun game to watch. I think Chen is probably the most underrated pitchers in all of baseball. Last year as a rookie out of Japan he quietly became the best pitcher on the Wild Card winning Orioles pitching staff. Regardless, he showed all of his best stuff today and showed he has a very bright future. Unfortunately for him, Clay Buchholz matched him stride for stride. After 6 innings the game remained tied at 0-0. Neither pitcher would even blink. In the seventh, Buchholz started the inning off with a walk to Matt Weiters. After that though, he set the side down in order. Then came Chen’s turn to match yet another masterpiece of an inning by Buchholz. It looked like it was going to start well for Chen. He got Dustin Pedroia to ground to short, but Pedroia beat J.J. Hardy’s throw to first. Then Mike Napoli ripped a double off the center field wall that could have sworn was gone. So that left second and third no outs for the Sox’s hottest hitter, Will Middlebrooks. Then on the seventh pitch of the at bat with a 2-2 count, Middlebrooks waved at a pitch way outside. Chen had climbed one huge hurdle, but he was still 2 outs away from getting out of the jam and in stepped Daniel Nava. On the third pitch of the at bat, Nava found a pitch, middle in, that he liked and took a rip. And there it went. Right over the Monster. 3-0 Red Sox. That spelled the end of the day for Chen.
Fast forward to the bottom of the ninth. Sox still hold a 3-0 lead and the closer Joel Hanrahan comes in. Things didn’t start out so well for Hanrahan. Adam Jones took him deep to put the Orioles on the board for the first time. Then he settled in retiring the next 2 batters and was one out away from closing out the home opener. But Hanrahan had to channel his inner Papelbon. J.J. Hardy gave them some life doubling to bring the tying run to the plate. Hanrahan then got Ryan Flaherty to pop out in foul ground and the Sox won.
Player of the Game: Clay Buchholz 7 IP 0 ER 8 SO
7 games down 155 to go
I’ve decided this year I’m going to try to review every game this year. Unfortunately, with 162 games, coupled with my laziness, in all likelihood that won’t happen. I’ll try to get off to a good start and we’ll see how far I get. Today was Opening Day for the Red Sox and they were in New York to take on the Yankees. There was plenty of interesting story lines to go along with this game as well. For starters it was Red Sox Yankees which is always exciting, then there was Kevin Youkilis’ first game as a Yankee and first against the Sox as a Yankee. There was also the big league debut of Jackie Bradley Jr. We also got a look at the decimated Yankee lineup and the new look Red Sox minus David Ortiz and Stephen Drew. As you can see there was a lot going on in this game like any other Red Sox Yankees match up.
As for the game, the Sox got off to a hot start and never looked back. They were able to get to C.C. Sabathia early and rallied for 4 runs in the second inning keyed by a Jackie Bradley Jr. walk and hits by Jose Iglesias and Shane Victorino. After that Sabathia was able to settle in and lasted 5 innings giving up just those 4 runs on 8 hits and 4 walks. Jon Lester was better, but not by much. He too only lasted 5 innings giving up 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks. Most of his trouble came in the 4th where allowed the two runs off of 2 out 2 RBI single by Francisco Cervelli.
With the starters not going deep into the game we got a good look at both teams bullpens. Each team used 5 relievers over the last 4 innings. For the Sox, we got our first look at Koji Uehara and Joel Hanrahan for the first time in a Red Sox uniform. The Sox’s bullpen was phenomenal, allowing just 1 hit in four shutout innings. Unfortunately for the Yankees, their pen wasn’t as great. They allowed 4 runs on hits in their 4 innings of work. The one who really struggled was Joba Chamberlain. He came in in the 9th trying to hold the Sox lead at 3, but he ended up doubling it. He really struggled with his command and when he did get in the zone it was very hitable. He even had to be consoled by his good friend and now teammate Kevin Youkilis.
Every hitter, with the exception of Mike Napoli, got on base. Jackie Bradley Jr., although he failed to get a hit, he still made a huge impact. He walked 3 times, drove in a run, and made a great catch in left. Not bad for his MLB debut. Jose Iglesias surprised with 3 hits, even though he never got the ball out of the infield. The top of the order was very productive, with Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, and Dustin Pedroia combining for 8 hits and 6 RBIs. If the lineup can produce like this every night the Sox will be fine. Obviously you can’t expect 8 runs every night, but you can expect guys to grind out at bats and get on base.
All in all, the Sox came through with a 8-2 victory in John Farrell’s Red Sox managerial debut. The win went to Jon Lester and the loss to C.C. Sabathia. The Sox now lead the series 1 game to none.
Player of the Game: Jacoby Ellsbury 3 for 6 3 RBIs 1 3B
1 game down 161 to go
Stephen Drew has a concussion and the reports on him seem to get worse as each day passes by. He’s left the team to get further reports on his health and is expected to begin the season on the DL. With the money he’s getting on a one year deal it’s safe to say that this news is more than a little disappointing. Also this leaves a gaping hole in the position that hasn’t been found a permanent owner since Nomar occupied it and there isn’t exactly a plethora of option for the Sox to pick from.
Jose Iglesias: Iglesias is the favorite to get the job and his strong spring has bolstered his chance to make the team. Iglesias was projected to be the Red Sox shortstop in 2012 a few years back, but as we all know that did not happen. There has never been a question about his fielding ability, but his bat has raised several question marks. He’s yet prove he can be a productive hitter in the major league or really at any level for that matter. He did spend time working out with Dustin Pedroia this Winter and maybe that work has paid off and he can finally reach his full potential.
Pedros Ciriaco: Ciriaco stormed on to the scene last season when he played phenomenally in a short stretch at the end of the year. He is a great fastball hitter, but the second the pitch moves Ciriaco looks lost. Obviously with time he’ll be able to learn how to pick up the breaking ball, but do want to wait for that from your starting shortstop? If you want to wait for progression you might as well go with the top prospect in Iglesias. Like Iglesias there aren’t any questions with his defense. I can definitely see the Sox choosing Ciriaco to start at short I just question if it’d be the right choice.
Brock Holt: Holt is your traditional utility infielder. Can hold his own at every infield position, but won’t hit too much for you. Holt came over to the Red Sox in the Joel Hanrahan trade and was expected to battle with Ciriaco for the utility infielder spot and he has been outperformed by Ciriaco thus far and it doesn’t appear as if that’ll change. Odds are the only way he’s making the team is on the bench.
Xander Bogaerts: Bogaerts, whose name I’ll never be able to spell correctly on my first try, has about a 0.0000001% chance of starting the season as the Red Sox starting shortstop, (and that may be a stretch) but never say never I suppose. He’s one of, if not the, top prospects in the Red Sox system and has a lot of people excited about his future. He’s excelled at every level and appears to be just a couple of years away from being major league ready. MLB.com’s Jonathon Mayo believes that he’ll be ready for next year. The Sox could start him at the beginning of the season to see how he fares against top-level competition, but that would cause them to use an option and start his service time clock. Neither of those things are something the Sox want to do, so I highly doubt they would go this route.
- Stephen Drew Still Experiencing Concussion Symptoms, No Timetable Set for Shortstop’s Return (nesn.com)
- Boston Red Sox: Players Who Could Make the 25-Man Roster but Definitely Won’t (bleacherreport.com)
- Jose Iglesias Has Golden Opportunity to Become Red Sox’ Opening Day Shortstop With Stephen Drew Sidelined (nesn.com)
- Drew likely to see concussion specialist (mlb.mlb.com)