Red Sox

Projecting Red Sox's bullpen roles with relief pitchers finalized

Projecting Red Sox's bullpen roles with relief pitchers finalized

The Boston Red Sox's bullpen undoubtedly is the club's biggest question mark entering the 2019 season.

But at least we know who's part of the unit.

The Red Sox made five roster cuts Saturday, in the process finalizing the eight relief pitchers they'll carry into Opening Day. Here's the list in alphabetical order:

RHP Matt Barnes
RHP Ryan Brasier
RHP Colten Brewer
RHP Heath Hembree
LHP Brian Johnson
RHP Tyler Thornburg
RHP Hector Velázquez
RHP Brandon Workman

While it's not a particularly inspiring group on paper -- only Brasier had an ERA under 3.00 last season -- and it doesn't include All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, manager Alex Cora doesn't seem concerned.

"People outside our world think we're short on pitching. We're not. We're fine," Cora said Saturday, via The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham.

But who will pitch in which roles with Kimbrel and setup man Joe Kelly both gone? Cora continues to play coy, so here's our best guess for each role:

Closer: Matt Barnes

Barnes hasn't always been effective, but he's put in the time, throwing at least 60 innings in each of the past three seasons for Boston. The 28-year-old has made steady improvements each year, too, dropping his ERA to a career-low 3.65 in 2018 with a 3.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His leash will be short, but Barnes at least should get first crack at the closer job in 2019.

Setup man: Ryan Brasier

You could make a case for Brasier as the closer after his stellar 2018 campaign (six earned runs allowed over 33.2 innings). But he still has fewer than 50 career innings under his belt, and an infected pinky toe halted his progress in spring training. The 31-year-old thrived in the seventh and eighth innings last year, so why not keep him there?

Bridge/situational relievers: Tyler Thornburg, Colten Brewer, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman

The Red Sox have been waiting three years for Thornburg. If he somehow stays on the field and returns to his 2016 form (2.15 ERA over 67 innings with the Brewers), he could get bumped up to the setup man role. For now, we expect Thornburg, Brewer, Hembree and Workman to operate primarily in the sixth and seventh innings based on matchups to bridge the gap to Brasier and Barnes.

Long relievers: Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez

Johnson is the only current left-hander in the 'pen, so he could be used situationally, too. Both he and Velazquez have starting experience, though, and should get the call if a starter gets into trouble early.

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MLB Rumors: Red Sox 'showing active interest' in Kirby Yates and Ken Giles

MLB Rumors: Red Sox 'showing active interest' in Kirby Yates and Ken Giles

It's no secret the Red Sox need to address their less-than-stellar bullpen and starting rotation at the July 31 trade deadline if they hope to make a run toward the postseason. 

They have already reportedly looked at Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Stroman as starting options while Toronto's Daniel Hudson is a reported target for some bullpen help. 

Keeping with the theme of potential bullpen additions, the Red Sox reportedly have 'active interest' in Padres closer Kirby Yates and Blue Jays closer Ken Giles, according to Jon Morosi

Both have been very good closers this season for their respective clubs, who could both be sellers at the deadline. Yates, 32, leads the National League in saves with 31 to go with a 1.07 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 40 appearances. 

Giles, 29, hasn't bee as good as Yates this year by the numbers with only 14 saves. But a 1.64 ERA in 33 games and electric stuff would certainly be a welcome addition in the Boston bullpen. The Red Sox are in no place to be picky. 

Acquiring a closer would be a curious move considering the Sox' plan to use Nathan Eovaldi as the full-time closer. Of course, they could bring a legitimate closer to open up a return to the rotation for Eovaldi, but it would be odd to get a closer before getting a good look at Eovaldi in that role. 

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MLB Rumors: Red Sox among teams to evaluate Blue Jays reliever Daniel Hudson

MLB Rumors: Red Sox among teams to evaluate Blue Jays reliever Daniel Hudson

As the July 31 trade deadline quickly approaches, the Red Sox will need to bolster their bullpen and starting rotation if they want to make another run at back-to-back World Series championships. 

They already have reported interest in starters like Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Stroman, and now they seem to have eyes on some much-needed bullpen help. 

According to Jon Morosi, the Red Sox are among teams evaluated Blue Jays reliever Daniel Hudson as several clubs have shown interest in trading for the 32-year-old right-hander. 

Hudson has appeared in 40 games this season for Toronto, posting a 2.72 ERA and 42 strikeouts over 43 innings. Morosi notes that over his last 16 outings, Hudson has been excellent, sporting a 0.93 ERA. 

The Red Sox are expected to be buyers at the trade deadline, with their biggest needs on the mound. If they expect to make any sort of run in the postseason or get into the playoffs for that matter, they will need to acquire pitchers. Hudson could go a long way in stabilizing what has been a disastrous group of relievers this season. 

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