The Red Sox bullpen, such a strength for them so far this season and a big reason they’ve gotten off to a good start, is about to be put to the ultimate test.
After closer Andrew Bailey (bicep strain) was placed on the 15-day disabled list yesterday afternoon, former closer Joel Hanrahan joined him there today after leaving last night’s game with a forearm strain that the Red Sox say will simply require rest and rehab, at least for now.
The result is that manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves have had to shuffle things around by moving Junichi Tazawa into the closer role, adding lefty Craig Breslow to the mix after a DL stint of his own and, surprisingly, promoting rookie Allen Webster to the rotation to replace Felix Doubront, who will move to the pen to try to work on some things as a reliever.
Got all that? That’s a lot of movement but it’s to be expected when a team loses not one, but two closers to injury in two days.
We’ve talked all season about how much flexibility and depth the Sox pen has provided and now that depth will be asked to produce quality innings. Simply put, guys will be pitching in roles they are not normally accustomed to because of all the shuffling.
The good news is Farrell and Nieves, both former pitchers, are piloting the ship and seem supremely confident they can get through this rough patch because they believe they have quality arms available to fill in, particularly Webster, a young pitching luxury not many teams have.
It’s going to take a team wide effort to get through this until Bailey, hopefully, returns on his scheduled day of May 14. But even that is a question right now because Bailey has never been an especially good healer throughout his injury plagued career.
It means that not only is Tazawa going to need to pitch effectively and Breslow is going to have to step in as a co-setup man along with Koji Uehara, but the starting rotation is going to have to provide that extra inning or two per start until things clear up.
Doubront and his power arm pitching shorter stints out of the pen should also help as maybe less will be more for him in terms of effectiveness.
What’s happened to the bullpen in the last few days just speaks to how fast perceived pitching depth can dry up. The way baseball is played today, a team really needs a total of 16-18 dependable arms to get through a season unscathed.
Whether the Red Sox have that kind of depth or not is going to be determined over the next week or two and could determine what kind of season this becomes for them down the road. So, do they survive this?