2019 Sox bullpen: Relievers, possible closers, and dark horses
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox are set on entering the 2019 season with the bullpen as currently constructed. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has made that crystal clear.
That means this bullpen needs guys to step up and fill the voids left by the departures of Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel. A bunch of relievers from last season's champions are returning, but you can expect some new faces in the mix, too.
Here’s the group the Red Sox seem to have the utmost confidence in with the 2019 regular season only a little more than a month away. . .
Colten Brewer, RHP
2018 stats: 11 games, 1-0, 5.59 ERA, 2.28 WHIP with San Diego
2019 outlook: Don’t be fooled by the numbers above. Brewer, 26, has earned some big praise from Red Sox manager Alex Cora this spring. “Brewer is a guy that intrigues me,” Cora said last week at JetBlue Park. “I know he has big-league experience but size, size-wise, it’s pretty interesting what we’re going to do with him.”
That certainly sounds like Brewer will be making an impact on this year’s major-league team.
Heath Hembree, RHP
2018 stats: 67 games, 4-1, 4.20 ERA, 1.33 WHIP.
2019 outlook: You can expect Hembree’s role to increase in 2019. The 30-year-old boasts some of the best swing-and-miss stuff of anyone in the Red Sox bullpen and could be counted on to put in more late-inning work.
Brian Johnson, RHP
2018 stats: 38 games (13 starts), 4-5, 4.17 ERA, 1.43 WHIP.
2019 outlook: Johnson, like last year, will be counted on as a spot starter and long reliever. Alex Cora mentioned Johnson could be used as an “opener” when the starting rotation needs rest at certain times throughout the season.
Denyi Reyes, RHP
2018 stats: 27 games (24 starts), 12-5, 1.97 ERA, 0.91 WHIP with Single-A Salem and Greenville.
2019 outlook: Reyes’ raw talent earned himself a spot on the Red Sox spring training roster, but the 22-year-old likely won’t make an impact at the major-league level this year. Still, he’s a name to remember as he boasts some absolutely filthy stuff. Don’t be surprised if he’s dominating Triple-A by the end of 2019.
Chandler Shepherd, RHP
2018 stats: 25 games started, 7-10, 3.89 ERA, 1.36 WHIP with Triple-A Pawtucket.
2019 outlook: Shepherd, 26, could be called up sometime this season to be a long man out of the bullpen. You could see the Red Sox prospect in a Brian Johnson/Hector Velazquez kind of role.
Josh Taylor, LHP
2018 stats: 48 games, 3-7, 3.35 ERA, 1.53 WHIP with Single-A Visalia, Double-A Portland, and Triple-A Pawtucket.
2019 outlook: Acquired in the trade that sent infielder Deven Marrero to Arizona, Taylor could find some time on the big-league roster later on in the season as an injury fill-in.
Travis Lakins, RHP
2018 stats: 36 games (six starts), 3-2, 2.32 ERA, 1.03 WHIP with Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket
2019 outlook: Lakins is one of the reasons the Red Sox aren’t worried about the state of their bullpen heading into 2019. The 24-year-old prospect dominated out of the bullpen in both Portland and Pawtucket. Injuries have been an issue in his young career, but if he can stay healthy, he will be one of the more intriguing arms in the organization to keep an eye on.
Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP
2018 stats: 28 games (23 starts), 9-5, 3.53 ERA, 1.42 WHIP with Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland
2019 outlook: One of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization, Hernandez has wowed onlookers so far in spring training. “I didn’t know about the spin rate for his breaking ball. It’s way up there. That’s cool,” Cora said about the left-hander on Monday. Like Lakins, you’ll see Hernandez contribute out of the Sox bullpen sometime this season.
Bobby Poyner, LHP
2018 stats: 20 games, 1-0, 3.22 ERA, 1.12 WHIP
2019 outlook: When called upon by the Red Sox in 2019, Poyner was great. Unfortunately for him, he spent most of the year in Triple-A Pawtucket. Now that there’s more room for guys to step up this season, expect the left-hander to get a lot more work with the major league club.
Marcus Walden, RHP
2018 stats: Eight games, 0-0, 3.68 ERA, 1.16 WHIP
2019 outlook: Walden in all likelihood will spend most of the season in Triple-A Pawtucket, but he’ll be one of the first to get the call if the Red Sox need an injury replacement.
Tyler Thornburg, RHP
2018 stats: 25 games, 2-0, 5.63 ERA, 1.58 WHIP
2019 outlook: Thornburg looks to forget all about his less-than-stellar 2018 comeback attempt and show what he’s truly capable of this season. The key will be staying healthy. If he can do that, the hope is that he will return to his dominant 2016 self.
Brandon Workman, RHP
2018 stats: 43 games, 6-1, 3.27 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
2019 outlook: Workman was a solid middle relief option for most of the 2018 season and we can expect more of the same in 2019. He excels at getting left-handed hitters out, so look for him to be relied on against lefties in a bullpen that lacks southpaws.
Steven Wright, RHP
2018 stats: 20 games (4 starts), 3-1, 2.68 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
2019 outlook: Alex Cora said Wright will be used strictly as a reliever this season. That’s probably the best course of action due to the knuckleballer’s nagging knee issues. Wright, a former All-Star, should be one of the team’s most utilized long relief arms as long as he’s healthy.
Hector Velazquez, RHP
2018 stats: 47 games (eight starts), 7-2, 3.18 ERA, 1.45 WHIP
2019 outlook: Velazquez was reliable in his spot starter/long reliever role last season, and he’ll be counted on to do it again in 2019.
Matt Barnes, RHP
2018 stats: 62 games, 6-4, 3.65 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
2019 outlook: Barnes is a candidate for the vacant closer spot in 2019. The hard-throwing right-hander will look to build off a 2018 in which he had one of the better seasons of his brief career.
Ryan Brasier, RHP
2018 stats: 34 games, 2-0, 1.60 ERA, 0.77 WHIP
2019 outlook: Brasier’s a candidate for the closer role along with Matt Barnes. The 31-year-old broke out in 2018 and was a major contributor to the Red Sox' World Series title. This time, he’ll have to prove he can get the job done in high-leverage situations night in and night out.