Sep 23, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Andrew Bailey (40) pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the ninth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

How Much Better Is Boston's Bullpen?

As with many holes that needed to be filled in the off season, Boston set about making some major changes in their bullpen after the 2012 season. Although terrible for stretches, the 2012 Red Sox pen wasn’t the worst one in Major League Baseball. Even so, they were collectively in the bottom third in MLB in every statistically significant category (ERA – 3.88, WHIP – 1.30, walks – 193 and home runs – an especially egregious 222).

Alfredo Aceves proved that being a petulant malcontent does indeed translate into equally abysmal on field performance. Aceves appeared in far more games than anyone in the pen, 69. He finished the season with an obese 5.36 ERA, lost 10 games and won 2. When combined with Daniel Bard (6.22 ERA), Andrew Bailey (7.04 ERA) and Mark Melancon (6.2 ERA) it was clear by the end of the season that things had to change in big way.

The acquisitions in the offseason of closer Joel Hanrahan reliever Koji Uehara and starter Ryan Dempster coupled with Bubble boys Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa from the Dodgers give Boston bonafide depth and some interesting possibilities heading into spring training.

Hanrahan will move to Boston’s closer role, taking the heat off Bailey and allowing him to be a solid set up man. Where does this leave Daniel Bard?

I still believe Bard is salvageable but also feel that his spring season will actually tell the story if he’s back or simply this generation’s Steve Blass. He’ll have to win the setup role if manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves‘ minds are not already made up.

If Bailey becomes the setup man Bard can move to a 7th inning bridge man or possible long relief, although his starting role last year didn’t indicate he was able to fool anyone over more than two innings. OK, to be fair Bard couldn’t find his butt with both hands last year. If he falters again Uehara can step in.

With Aceves, Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales and Clayton Mortensen healthy and ready to compete, Nieves and Farrell at the very least have a host of options to sort out. It truly takes an army of arms to win in Major League Baseball. When pitchers and catchers report on February 12 the Red Sox will have more soldiers.

Oliver’s army is here to stay
Oliver’s army are on their way
- Oliver’s Army, Elvis Costello 

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