Matt Barnes

Red Sox confident the answer at closer will come from within

Red Sox confident the answer at closer will come from within

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox aren’t searching for an answer to the void left by Craig Kimbrel. They believe they already have it.

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski has been adamant this offseason that a large expenditure for a closer is unlikely. He reiterated those comments again Wednesday at JetBlue Park, and explained how the team plans on replacing Kimbrel.

“Well, somebody internally, we’re looking to do that,” Dombrowski said. “We have some good arms. We just had a nice meeting in there with some of our pitchers. We have a talented group of individuals.

"Any time you say you’re going to replace a player of Craig Kimbrel’s caliber with the type of talent he has, you just don’t — that’s not easily done. He’s, to me, a future Hall-of-Fame reliever, one of the best closers in the game. But sometimes, other guys get the opportunity and they step up. We have people like [Matt] Barnes, [Ryan] Brasier, that we both think have the abilities to do so. [Tyler] Thornburg has been a good closer in the past, we’ll see how he is in the spring. His health is fine, we’ll see if he can bounce back. Nobody has really seen, to me, Tyler Thornburg that was out there before he joined in Milwaukee. I know everybody’s critical of the situation and I know how things go, but this guy was a really good pitcher. He’s healthy, and he feels great.

"Steven Wright’s a possibility of a guy, depending upon how his health is. So we feel we have some internal options to go ahead and do that, and of course we’ll still keep an eye on what’s taking place outside the camp but we think our answers come from within.”

⚾️ SPRING TRAINING 2019

Will the Red Sox officially name a closer during spring training?

“I would think we would, but it’s not imperative,” said Dombrowski. “I’ve seen clubs that haven’t done it, but I think normally somebody steps up. I think we have enough talent to do it, but you know, the game’s changed sometimes. I can tell you that I was just listening to one report that said their manager chooses to not have one, that he wants to pitch guys with two innings and be able to do that. That’s not necessarily our thought process, but I can’t tell you that doesn’t evolve, but right now we’re looking to have a closer when we leave camp.”

As Dombrowski mentioned, Ryan Brasier is a leading candidate to take over Kimbrel’s closing job. On Wednesday, the right-hander explained his mindset as he prepares to be called upon in an increased role.

“Same as every other camp,” Brasier said. “Just try to get some work done and go into the season ready to go. if it happens, it happens and if not hopefully i’ll be here somewhere else.”

“I feel like every inning, whether it’s the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, I try to do the same thing every time I go out. Obviously, everybody wants to be the closer. But when it gets down to it, everyone has to be a closer at some point. Get out of a tough inning or you know, a tough situation. I’m just looking for the opportunity to get some good innings and have a good year.”

⚾️ SPRING TRAINING 2019

We’ll probably have to wait for spring training to run its course before we know for sure who will take the ball in the ninth inning, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora appears to already be leaning in a certain direction.

“I have a pretty good idea of where we are going to go,” Cora said. “We still have to go through the meetings and let them know what the plan is. Everybody is going to be on board.

“I’m comfortable with the stuff we have,” Cora continued. “Obviously we have to go out there and perform, but we do believe with the talent we have and what we believe as an organization that we are going to be able to get outs.”

Also on board with using internal options to make up for the loss of Kimbrel is ace Chris Sale.

“If [Kimbrel’s] not in the mix, I think we have a handful of guys that can lock down the 9th inning and we have a lot of young guys who can step up as well,” Sale said. “So I think obviously people like to make a big deal about it, but where we sit as players and our staff and our coaches I think we’re confident with the group we have going forward without the additions.”

So whether it be Brasier, Matt Barnes, even Tyler Thornburg or Steven Wright, the Red Sox have made up their mind. The answer will come from within. 

Time will tell whether it’s the correct one.

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Alex Cora: 'Too early' to answer questions about closer

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Alex Cora: 'Too early' to answer questions about closer

Spring training is just around the corner, and who will be closing games for the Red Sox this year is still up in the air. 

Manager Alex Cora says that it's too soon to answer questions about which pitcher might fill the role of Craig Kimbrel, who remains unsigned after an offseason of negotiations with several teams. 

"I think for me it’s too early to answer that one," said Cora when asked in Fort Myers who could be pitching the ninth for the Red Sox in 2019. "I have to talk to the players first before I answer that. 

"But we got some capable guys that can get outs in the seventh, eighth, ninth inning. What [Matt] Barnes did last year was amazing. If you start looking where he pitched during the regular season and during the playoffs, getting the three-four-fifth guy from the seventh inning on. He was amazing... But for me, it’s too soon. I’m going to sit down with them and talk to them. I don’t want anybody to come here and try to win a job the first day of spring training. I’ll talk to them and we’ll figure it out and talk about it."

Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier seem the two most likely candidates who could fill the shoes of Kimbrel, whose return to Boston seems unlikely at this point. 

The Sox could also swing a trade over the next month-and-a-half before Opening Day in late March. 

Either way, it doesn't seem likely that Cora makes a decision any time soon. 

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Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts headline Red Sox arbitration-eligible players

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Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts headline Red Sox arbitration-eligible players

The clock is ticking for the Red Sox.

The defending World Series champions have until 1 p.m. Friday to exchange salary figures with their remaining group of arbitration-eligible players or come to terms on new contracts. Boston has already agreed to terms with Heath Hembree, Tyler Thornburg, and Steven Wright, leaving a group of nine players, headlined by reigning A.L. MVP Mookie Betts, waiting for their new deals.

The most interesting case is sure to be Betts, who still has two arbitration-eligible seasons left before he hits free agency. Last year, the Sox lost his arbitration hearing despite a somewhat interesting strategy and had to pay him $3 million more than their proposed figure of $7.5 million. 

Here's a quick rundown of the players still looking for a 2019 contract along with their projected salaries, per MLBTradeRumors.com.

MOOKIE BETTS
2018 Stats: .346 average, 32 HR, 80 RBI, 30 SB
2018 Salary: $10.5 million
Projected 2019 Salary: $18.7 million

XANDER BOGAERTS
2018 Stats: .288 average, 23 HR, 103 RBI
2018 Salary: $7,050,000
Projected 2019 Salary: $11.9 million

JACKIE BRADLEY, JR.
2018 Stats: .234 average, 13 HR, 59 RBI
2018 Salary: $6.1 million
Projected 2019 Salary: $7.9 million

EDUARDO RODRIGUEZ
2018 Stats: 13-5 record, 3.82 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
2018 Salary: $2,375,000
Projected 2019 Salary: $4.8 million

BROCK HOLT
2018 Stats: .277 average, 7 HR, 46 RBI
2018 Salary: $2,225,000
Projected 2019 Salary: $3.4 million

SANDY LEON
2018 Stats: .177 average, 5 HR, 22 RBI
2018 Salary: $1,950,000
Projected 2019 Salary: $2.3 million

MATT BARNES
2018 Stats: 6-4 record, 25 holds, 3.65 ERA
2018 Salary: $605,000
Projected 2019 Salary: $1.5 million

BRANDON WORKMAN
2018 Stats: 6-1 record, 3.27 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
2018 Salary: $835,000
Projected 2019 Salary: $1.4 million

BLAKE SWIHART
2018 Stats: .229 average, 3 HR, 18 RBI
2018 Salary: $563,500
Projected 2019 Salary: $1.1 million

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