Dana LeVangie

Who stays and who goes? Red Sox on the hot seat after rough 2019 season

Who stays and who goes? Red Sox on the hot seat after rough 2019 season

Change is inevitable. But the 2019 Red Sox put that to the test, largely returning the same squad from the team that won 108 games and rolled to a World Series title a season ago.

Sure, Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly didn't come back, and the bullpen is one reason why the Sox are just a few games over .500 and out of the postseason picture with under 50 games to play.

But outside of that, this year's squad looks very similar to last year's, except for the results. So you can count on changes before next season, but who will return? And who is just playing out the string in Boston?

From the rock-solid bets to return to guys who are all but gone, NBC Sports Boston Red Sox Insider John Tomase ranks whose seat is hottest... and who's a sure bet to return.

Click here for our Red Sox hot seat odds>>>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Why the Red Sox pitchers are looking into their hats so much while they're on the mound

Why the Red Sox pitchers are looking into their hats so much while they're on the mound

If you've watched the Boston Red Sox play this season, chances are you've seen their pitchers take their caps off frequently and look into them.

For a while, fans were left wondering as to what was the Sox were hiding in their hats. But now, thanks to pitching coach Dana LeVangie, curious fans have their answers.

"It's a sign system," LeVangie said per WEEI's Rob Bradford. "Multiple, multiple, multiple options to go to. Changing constantly. Just trying to stay one step ahead."

In an era where teams are as paranoid as ever about sign-stealing, having this system in place makes sense. And as LeVengie would go on to say, it allows the pitchers to focus elsewhere and worry less about memorizing several sign combinations.

"Too many times catchers and pitchers were crossing each other up," LeVangie said per Bradford. "We want to focus more on pitch execution rather than putting time, energy and effort into the system. We value it big-time, but we want to make it so it’s not so complicated that it is taking away from the pitches."

The strategy also could have been put into effect to help the team avoid wild pitches, which have been an issue for the Sox. Their 57 wild pitches rank second in the MLB to only the Los Angeles Dodgers (72). Given the number of relief pitchers and spot starters the Red Sox have shuffled into the lineup this year, these numbers aren't surprising.

It makes sense that the Red Sox would want to try to avoid these simple cross-ups that often occur when signs are changing so frequently. We'll see if this technique has a positive impact on them over the course of the next couple of months. 

TOMASE: Sox fading fast in do-or-die time>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

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."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.