There has been quite a bit of talk about how the bullpen looks in the later innings. New acquisitions Joel Hanrahan and Koji Uehara should fit right in to form a dynamic back end of the bullpen along with Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow. However, it can’t be forgotten that even beyond those four stellar relievers, the Red Sox have a truly incredible bullpen. It’s tough to even pick who the remaining three pitchers would be between the hopefully revitalized Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard, and young hurlers Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, Clayton Mortensen, and Junichi Tazawa. All of those pitchers are potential relief studs, but the Red Sox will have to pick between them this spring.
Alfredo Aceves received a $2.65 million contract through arbitration this year, and is out of options. Thus, I think it is likely that he will be in the bullpen on Opening Day. While his 5.36 ERA as a failed closer was disappointing last year, he and and the Red Sox hope that he can get back to the levels of his 2011 season which saw him go 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA. A return to the swingman/long relief role should be a good stepping stone for “Ace.” Daniel Bard, on the other hand, is much less likely to start the year in the bullpen. More than anything else, that’s because of the fact that he has a remaining option, as he failed as a starter (posting a 6.22 ERA in 17 games), but hopefully will return to form as a reliever. I think it’s most likely that he starts to return to form in Pawtucket, though.
It’s very difficult to pick between the remaining four pitchers, however. Four of the first five pitchers in the bullpen that I’ve mentioned are right-handers (Breslow being the exception), so it’s likely that at least one of Franklin Morales or Andrew Miller makes it in. Neither has any options remaining, so they’d have to be exposed to waivers, where they would certainly be taken. It would be unfair to demote or lose either one due to their contributions to the team in 2012 (3-4, 3.77 and 3-2, 3.35 respectively). Since both have no options, both should be in the bullpen come Opening Day.
It hurts to say, but this would leave both Junichi Tazawa and Clayton Mortensen off the major league team. Both had excellent seasons when with the Red Sox last year posting 3.21 and 1.43 ERA’s, respectively. Mortensen, left without options, would likely be waived and some other team in need of relief help would pick him up. Tazawa has an option, and if he didn’t, would almost certainly be on the major league team. In case of injuries, however, he should be right back up.
This would leave the Red Sox with a remarkable bullpen lineup. The late inning relievers should be absolutely shutdown, but one can’t overlook the guys who will be pitching in the fifth and sixth innings. If Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller, and Franklin Morales are right, they could be the late inning relievers on a multitude of teams. On the Red Sox, they’ll be relegated to less important situations. Close games should be fun to watch in 2013.