BOSTON -- Although it hasn’t been the problem so far in the ALDS, the Red Sox’ bullpen has been the biggest question mark on this team throughout the season.
There have been multiple topics of discussion regarding almost every reliever: pitching in a clean inning versus runners on base, pitching in a non-save situation, not have a set inning -- you name it, it’s been brought up.
As for their ALDS opponent, Andrew Miller - known more as a late-inning, high-leverage reliever - entered in the fifth inning of Game 1 for the Indians. Not only that, he pitched two innings and struck out four.
Some might say, “Well Andrew Miller is debatably the best reliever in the game,” which is a fair claim.
But Cleveland’s No. 2 in its bullpen is closer Cody Allen, who had a 2.51 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 68 innings. Although Allen’s been the Indians primary closer since 2014, there was a time where he pitched as early as the fifth inning.
In fact, earlier in his career, he also pitched in innings two through four. The Red Sox saw him earn the save Thursday after a 1 2/3-inning appearance, with four strikeouts, too.
So, the natural question is, “Can Allen do what Miller’s doing if need be?”
“Absolutely,” Allen told CSNNE.com after Sunday Game 3 was rained out. “I think it’s more so just not being caught off guard. Tito [Francona] does a really good job of communicating with us about certain scenarios that may come up throughout the game that we may be used that’s maybe not a situation where we would normally throw.
“So, as long as we’re aware that it could happen, you’re going to prepare yourself. And as long as you prepare yourself accordingly you’re not going to be caught off guard.”
The Indians closer has no problem pitching outside of the ninth inning.
What about dealing with a clean inning versus coming in with runners on, is that a problem?
“No,” Allen said. “You know obviously [when] you come in with a clean inning you can help try and dictate what happens.
“But you’re just called in -- you just pitch when you’re asked to pitch; whether there’s guys on base, certain scenarios call for something where you’re trying to strand a couple guys out there or you come in with first and third and trying to get a double play ball. It’s more just going out there and you’re facing a really good hitter and just trying to make good pitches and get that guy out.”
Now comparing Allen to Red Sox reliever Brad Ziegler isn’t necessarily fair, given Ziegler is not a strikeout pitcher -- so he’s at a noticeable disadvantage from Allen in those situations.
However, Allen shed a lot of light on the issues surrounding the 2016 Boston bullpen.
If nothing else, Boston’s relievers should heed one message from the Orlando, Florida native: “You just pitch when you’re asked to pitch.”
That might solve a few headaches in the future.