Red Sox

McAdam: No sense in Tazawa closing for Sox


McAdam: No sense in Tazawa closing for Sox

It's time the Red Sox move on from Junichi Tazawa in the closer's role.

With the Sox leading 5-2 in the ninth inning, the Red Sox turned to Jean Machi to protect the lead -- which he did, barely.
But Machi was only closing Monday night because Tazawa was unavailable after throwing 30 pitches in the ninth-inning explosion against Kansas City on Sunday.
Interim manager Torey Lovullo maintained that Tazawa would continue to get the ball in the ninth. "I think we're going to stay with Taz, for sure," Lovullo told reporters. "Just because you might have a situation where you don't get the job done and don't execute, it wouldn't help him right now to just pull it away from him."
Problem is, Sunday was far from atypical for Tazawa in the closer's role. He's never adapted to it. In 43 appearances in the ninth inning in his career -- not all, obviously, were traditional save situations --  Tazawa has a 3.62 ERA and hitters are batting .297 against him.
Contrast that to his eighth inning numbers: 2.38 ERA with a .220 batting average against.
There's tremendous value to doing the job Tazawa has done for the last 3 1/2 seasons. Quality, durable set-up men are important.
But the Sox seem intent on trying to convince themselves that Tazawa will eventually figure things out in the ninth. Why? Koji Uehara is under contract for 2016 and will be the closer again next year.
The better plan would be for Tazawa to return to the high-leverage spot in the eighth and take the final five weeks to look at some younger options in the ninth. Heath Hembree, who has pitched well in his last three outings, might be worth a look.
Historically, teams have found closers by default. Such was the case with Uehara, who was the fourth choice in 2013. Perhaps rather that trying to have Tazawa do something he can't do, the Sox could try that approach again.

10 things I hate about the Red Sox through 10 games

10 things I hate about the Red Sox through 10 games

The Red Sox wanted to restore a bit of joy to our lives, but it looks like we'll have to settle for being mad about something other than the state of the world, which is its own form of escapism, I suppose.

Better than nothing.

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Anyway, 10 games into the season, they haven't given us much to cheer, but they've provided plenty of reason to grimace.

From a mix of bad starting pitching to being forced to use openers, from seeing the team's vaunted offense not deliver out of the starting gates to the continuing slog of marathon games, there's no shortage of issues that the Sox are dealing with a sixth of the way through their schedule.

Here are 10 of the worst aspects of the Red Sox season through 10 games.

How two missing setup men have created a cascade of woe for Red Sox

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How two missing setup men have created a cascade of woe for Red Sox

For two rookies who weren't on anyone's radar until about this time last year, Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor have turned out to be massive losses for the Red Sox.

The two young power left-handers stabilized the bullpen over the final two months of 2019, with Hernandez striking out batters at a record rate and Taylor emerging as an every-other-day workhorse.

Hernandez struck out a staggering 57 in just 30.1 innings (16.9 K/9), with a 4.45 ERA. In 23 appearances from July 16 through Sept. 6, he posted a 2.31 ERA. Taylor, meanwhile, was even more consistent. He delivered a 3.04 ERA in 57 appearances, and from July 2 through the finale, allowed only eight runs in 40 innings.

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Both feature 95-mph fastballs and both figured to play expanded roles in this truncated season, but when spring training 2.0 began in July, both were missing because of failed COVID tests. Taylor quarantined in his hotel near Fenway Park while battling fatigue. Hernandez remained in his native Venezuela for the first three weeks of July.

They're both now in Pawtucket, facing hitters for the first time in months. Each threw live BP over the weekend, and Taylor could be activated this week, manager Ron Roenicke said on Friday in New York.

The trickle-down effect has been significant. Roenicke has had little answer for innings two through five, relying on lesser arms like Austin Brice, Zack Godley, Matt Hall, and Jeffrey Springs either to serve as openers or bridge the gap to more established relievers like Marcus Walden, Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, and closer Brandon Workman.

As a result, on the days Nathan Eovaldi doesn't start, the Red Sox have finished the fifth inning trailing by an average score of 5-2.

A healthy Hernandez and Taylor could alter that dynamic in two ways. First, one of them could start and contribute as an opener. Roenicke said the Red Sox are stretching out Hernandez to throw two or three innings, which would make him a more dynamic candidate for the role than some of the flotsam the Red Sox have been forced to feature in his absence.

But even if both remained relievers, they'd either be available to throw in the early innings instead of Springs (33.75 ERA) or Hall (15.43 ERA), or they could bump someone like Walden or Hembree down there. Ten games into the season, too many games have already been lost before Roenicke could even warm his better relievers.

With the lack of legitimate starting pitchers forcing Roenicke to finesse his way through four out of every five games, the Red Sox can ill afford to enter battle without their full complement of weapons. Who knew that two guys we had barely heard of early last season would end up being such pivotal missing pieces?