Red Sox

Matt Barnes, Red Sox bullpen finally crumbling under weight of overuse and it's time for Dave Dombrowski to do something

Matt Barnes, Red Sox bullpen finally crumbling under weight of overuse and it's time for Dave Dombrowski to do something

BOSTON -- The Red Sox are torching Matt Barnes and the rest of their bullpen and if Dave Dombrowski doesn't act soon, he's going to find himself a heck of a lot more than one reliever short.

That's certainly the feel emanating from a ragged Red Sox relief corps that blew yet another save -- its league-leading 16th -- in a demoralizing 8-7 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday. Barnes took the loss after ending a marathon 10-pitch at-bat by leaving a fastball in Jose Abreu's wheelhouse, and the White Sox slugger didn't miss, blasting it over everything in left for the game-winning two-run homer.

Attention will undoubtedly focus on Barnes blowing his sixth save of the season and the Red Sox losing their eighth game with a lead after seven innings, but at some point, the workload should enter the equation.

Right-hander Brandon Workman leads the American League in appearances with 40, and Barnes and teammate Ryan Brasier are both right behind him in the top 10 at 36 apiece. That kind of wear and tear is taking a toll, particularly on Barnes, who has seen his ERA skyrocket from 1.99 on June 1 to 4.19 today. The 14 appearances he has made this month probably aren't helping.

"No, I feel good," Barnes said, though not necessarily convincingly.

Barnes lost the game when he failed to elevate the 10th and final pitch of his battle with Abreu, leaving a 97 mph fastball at the belt, where Abreu pulverized it. He was asked how much this one stings, particularly in light of the three-run rally that had given the Red Sox a 7-6 lead in the eighth.

"A lot. A lot," he said. "I didn't do my job. Offense did a phenomenal job of coming back and scoring three in the eighth, and then to give it up like that is tough."

Such losses are starting to feel inevitable, as the bullpen sags under the dual strain of (a) needing to pick up an average of six innings every time the fifth spot in the rotation rolls around, and (b) lacking a closer to handle the ninth inning and provide some definition to the final frames. The return of knuckleballer Steven Wright adds an experienced arm, but the Red Sox need more than say, Heath Hembree coming off the IL to save them.

"I know the usage is there," allowed manager Alex Cora, "but everyone has been used a lot. We've just got to get the job done."

Finding rest has been a balancing act. Workman (7-1, 1.70 ERA, three saves) was not available on Wednesday because of his workload, but he probably would've been pressed into duty if the Red Sox had extended the game.

"We try to take care of everyone," pitching coach Dana LeVangie said. "We're in a situation trying to win baseball games, trying to protect guys. We went into the first game of the series against these guys with Barnsey down. We have a plan for the most part going in. At times, we have to erase that based on what happens with the starter or whatever.

"At times, you can win or lose a game at the risk of losing a guy for two or three weeks, a month, because of it. I think we're trying to do this better, as much as we can."

Without reinforcements, it's hard to imagine the situation improving.

"Fatigued? Sure. All of the above," LeVangie said. "That's where a lot of those guys are. That's where we're at. That's part of being a reliever. Unfortunately, that's part of being their job. We've got a couple of days rest here leading into the London series, we've got one leading into the Toronto series. Hopefully, we can catch our breath."

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Chris Sale's illness-related setback a 'gut punch' to Red Sox ace

Chris Sale's illness-related setback a 'gut punch' to Red Sox ace

The Boston Red Sox need a new Opening Day starter.

Chris Sale will begin the 2020 season on the injured list as he recovers from the pneumonia he contracted earlier this month, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke told reporters Thursday.

Sale had hoped to be ready for Opening Day as he works back from an elbow injury that shut him down last August. But the 30-year-old missed two weeks of rehab due to his pneumonia, which means his first start of 2020 will be pushed back two weeks.

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"We didn’t think four starts in Spring Training was fair to him to make him start the season," Roenicke told reporters, via WEEI's Rob Bradford. "He’ll open up on the DL. We can backdate it three days. We’ll try to figure out exactly where that puts him."

The good news is that Sale's elbow appears to be in a good place: He's set to throw to live batting practice Saturday, and if he follows Roenicke's timeline, his 2020 debut could come April 6 in Boston's home game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

But someone other than Sale will start for the Red Sox on Opening Day for the first time since 2017, which isn't sitting well with the veteran hurler.

"It was a gut punch," Sale said, per Bradford. " ... The only thing that hurts is my ego, and that doesn't matter."

" ... Do I like it? Absolutely not. Do I respect it? 100 percent."

Sale's setback also is an unfortunate development for a Red Sox rotation that already lost David Price and Rick Porcello this offseason.

Eduardo Rodriguez figures to make his first career Opening Day start in Sale's stead, while Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez are Boston's only other healthy starting pitchers.

The Red Sox still don't have a fifth starter, and Roenicke's club may have to operate with just three legitimate starters for the first two weeks of the season.

That's not exactly a promising scenario for a team that's already taken plenty of lumps this offseason.

Yankees' Giancarlo Stanton 'will be down for a bit' with calf injury

Yankees' Giancarlo Stanton 'will be down for a bit' with calf injury

Wednesday was another tough day on the injury front for the New York Yankees.

Manager Aaron Boone revealed slugger Giancarlo Stanton "will be down for a bit" due to a Grade 1 right calf strain. The news comes one day after it was announced right-hander Luis Severino will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2020 campaign.

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Injuries have been par for the course with Stanton ever since he first donned Yankee pinstripes in 2018. The former National League MVP has played in only 176 of 324 regular-season games with New York due to bicep, shoulder, and knee ailments.

The Yankees still boast a well-rounded roster that can survive Stanton's absence for a while, but his presence in the middle of the lineup is key to their success. If the 30-year-old indeed misses time, it could be Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, or Mike Tauchman taking his spot in the lineup.

New York's 2020 season begins March 26 vs. the Baltimore Orioles.