Red Sox

Say hello to a 21-man Red Sox pitching staff and goodbye to what we think of as baseball

Say hello to a 21-man Red Sox pitching staff and goodbye to what we think of as baseball

BOSTON -- The Red Sox bullpen looked like a packed rush-hour Green Line train. Crossing the clubhouse meant navigating a toppled Jenga stack of spare lockers. Forget about a magnifying glass -- the four-point type on the official roster required a scanning electron microscope.

"Are we having fun yet?!" Adam Scott's Henry Pollard asked plaintively on the Starz cult classic "Party Down", but in terms of virality, the final three weeks of the Red Sox season are taking on the feel of "Too Many Cooks," the Adult Swim earworm that parodied 1990s sitcom themes -- first by never ending, and then by leaving everyone in a pool of blood (don't ask).

Baseball plans to address the issue of September roster chum next year, when each team will only be able to carry three extra players. The Red Sox seem to be operating with a self-imposed 28-man limit, but just barely, and that is the embarrassing number of pitchers on the roster.

On Wednesday, they recalled four relievers they had already sent home for the winter, bringing the number of active arms to 21. That number again: TWENTY-ONE. That's every healthy pitcher on the 40-man roster except Double-A right-hander Denyi Reyes, who should probably keep his phone on vibrate, just in case.

While some teams might be ashamed to carry so many arms, the Red Sox have little choice. They refuse to concede, which means they need all the help they can get. Outside of left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, their starting pitchers are either injured (Chris Sale), ineffective (Rick Porcello), or nonexistent.

So, with a little more than three weeks remaining and the playoffs somewhere just shy of a pipe dream, Cora offers no apologies for the parade of pitching changes that will almost certainly be inflicted upon us for the rest of the month.

Buckle up, and bring your traveling neck pillow.

"We're going winter ball style," Cora said. "That's how we're going to do it. The games, instead of four hours, they're going to be five hours. Keep the fans away from the..."

Cora's voice trailed off in recognition that even in jest, he probably shouldn't verbalize just how ugly the rest of the month could get. He knows this is a ridiculous use of the roster, but it is one afforded him by the rules, and the only alternative is to run his most effective relievers into a reef and watch them sink.

That's life on a team with horrible starting pitching. The Red Sox will try to bullpen their way to October, and that requires bodies. Lots and lots of bodies.

So on Wednesday, they summoned right-handers Colten Brewer, Trevor Kelley, and Mike Shawaryn, as well as left-hander Bobby Poyner, who had been freed to head home when the Triple-A season ended on Monday. They join a bullpen that already includes Jhoulys Chacin, Travis Lakins, Ryan Weber, and Hector Velazquez. Outside of the recently signed Chacin, that's a veritable Who's Who of pitchers you probably only vaguely remember, and not necessarily positively.

"We talked about it last night," Cora said. "Obviously, it's not perfect, but our starters are not giving us enough. We need matchups, we need arms, we're going to try to maximize Brewer's cutter and Shawaryn's slider and Bobby's fastball up and Kelley's side-arm pitches. We're trying to look for outs.

"Luckily I work in an organization that, we're not going to tap out, we're not going to wave the white flag and we're going to keep pushing," Cora added.

While the organization's motivation is entirely understandable -- ugly wins are wins just the same -- that doesn't mean we have to feel great about watching it. At a time when baseball should be selling the drama of pennant races, it instead shovels compost in our faces.

The Red Sox, who now run seven lines deep in the bullpen, will be leading that charge unapologetically, though in the 6-2 victory Wednesday night over the Twins, Cora still leaned on stalwarts Josh Taylor, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Brandon Workman.

"The rules are the rules," Cora said. "Next year, you can't do that. It's probably not the first time that's ever happened in the game, so I don't feel bad about it."

The box scores are about to get crowded. Given the limitations of their roster, the Red Sox see no other options.

 
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Lou Merloni: Red Sox 'believe they will [get off scot-free]'

Lou Merloni: Red Sox 'believe they will [get off scot-free]'

The Boston Red Sox are facing a lot of unexpected uncertainty at this stage in the offseason. The team fired their manager Alex Cora amid a sign-stealing scandal from his time with the Houston Astros. And now, they're searching for a replacement.

At this point in the offseason, there aren't a lot of options available. And most of the best candidates may come internally.

That said, the Red Sox will want to make sure that none of those internal candidates, namely Ron Roenicke, were involved in any sort of sign stealing during Cora's Red Sox tenure.

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And just how would they do that? Lou Merloni offered up a potential solution on NBC Sports Boston's Early Edition on Thursday night.

"What you do is you don't even name the manager," Merloni said. "You go into spring training if you have to, whenever this investigation is over. Roenicke runs the team. [Jason] Varitek has more responsibility in camp.

"And when the report comes out -- and if it's what they believe it is, that they're clean -- then Roenicke's the manager, 'Tek's the bench coach and you go from there with no promises of the future and you just say this is the way we go. I think that's the easiest transition for everyone in that locker room."

This definitely would be a sensible route for the team to take. Essentially, they can have Roenicke continue to serve as the manager without officially naming him the manager until they know the results of the investigation.

And according to Merloni, the team does believe that Roenicke and other members of their staff are clean and as a result, the team won't be punished.

"I'm hearing that they believe they are [going to get off scot-free]," Merloni said. "They believe that what they're told is true and that they didn't do anything. And if they didn't do anything, there's no reason for punishment."

It's unclear exactly when the MLB's investigation will be complete, but this will certainly be something to watch moving forward. For the time being though, the Red Sox seem content to stick with what they have provided that everything comes back clean.

MLB Rumors: Red Sox, Padres have discussed Mookie Betts trade

MLB Rumors: Red Sox, Padres have discussed Mookie Betts trade

A Mookie Betts trade this offseason still appears to be in the realm of possibility for the Boston Red Sox.

According to Dennis Lin of The Athletic, the Red Sox and San Diego Padres have discussed a potential deal involving the superstar outfielder.

Lin writes:

Recent talks between the teams have focused on sending a significant amount of prospect talent and outfielder Wil Myers to Boston, according to sources. Multiple people familiar with the discussions characterized an agreement as unlikely, and the industry consensus is that Betts will be in a Red Sox uniform on Opening Day. Yet both sides appear to have legitimate interest.

As our own John Tomase has noted, the Padres are a prospect-rich organization with all of the pieces necessary to acquire Betts if they want him. Throwing in Wil Myers would relieve San Diego of the $61 million owed to him over the next three seasons.

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On Monday, ESPN's Buster Olney wrote the Red Sox are looking to package David Price in any deal involving Betts to part ways with the $96 million remaining on the left-hander's contract.

Betts is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2020 season if he and the Red Sox do not agree to a contract extension.

Tomase: Top Sox prospect quickly growing on the franchise