Right now the scariest words a Red Sox fan can hear is now warming in the bullpen. The heart rate jumps even higher if it’s in the eighth and the Sox are leading. Many fans including myself have been known to stop watching or look away in the eighth because we like living. If the bullpen was known as the “Cardiac Kids” and it was a good thing we would be loving it but right now they stink worse than low tide on a hot summer afternoon.
When the season started there were great predictions of having one of the best bullpens in the game. The Sox had traded for Craig Kimbrel and Carson Smith. Combine them with Koji and Tazawa it was going to be lights out come the 7th. Smith has been injured basically all year. He had Tommy John surgery earlier this year and is hoping to come back next spring. Koji was supposed slide right into the 8th but he has not been the Koji we are used to. He has been out for over a month with a pectoral injury. He might be back during the Labor Day series with the Padres. It should be a boost for the pen. Tazawa on the other hand had a minor injury in late June but he has stumbled since early June. He is showing severe wear after years of the Sox going to the trusty reliever in all kinds of situations. Yesterday his performance gained him a win but not deserving of it as he gave up two runs in a 1/3 of inning coming in for Abad. Tazawa is good basically for mop ups now. He can not be trusted. I might rather have Calvin Shiraldi come out of the pen than him.
The past two months John Farrell has been trying to find the right combination of relievers to make it work and he just can’t seem to get the pieces to fit. After adding Brad Ziegler and Fernando Abad in July if was supposed to shore them up but it failed as well. Abad’s first appearance against a lefty was not a good sign. He gave a three run bomb to Robinson Cano to lose the game in Seattle. He has been good since then but his debut stays with us. Ziegler was the closer in Arizona. He has pitched well but has been out sick the past week and unable to pitch. His era of 1.89 has been great and he was briefly named the 8th inning guy. That is not a title that any one seems to do well with. Every time Farrell says some one is the eighth inning guy they fall apart. Look at Clay earlier this week.
With the calendar turning to September the Sox can add Heath Hembree and Joe Kelly to the pen as well as a few more it might loosen the pressure building on the pen. Farrell needs to stop saying to the press who is the eighth inning guy and just send them out there to pitch. Stop announcing it and it might just work. The only bright spot for the past 30 days has been Craig Kimbrel. He has only allowed 1 run on 4 hits in 10 innings since his injury.
So for September take your heart medication and be ready for a wild ride with the bullpen especially when we hit the 8th inning because it will be interesting. Now is the time for the boys in the pen to start defining there roles them selves and start pitching well.