I’m just back from Camden Yards over the weekend as I watched David Ortiz destroy a dugout phone Saturday night while the Red Sox lineup, led by Stephen Drew, took it to the Orioles and Scott Feldman 7-3.
But after all the Ortiz hoopla died down I came away feeling that the Red Sox are a reliever short for the stretch drive. As the trade deadline approaches this Wednesday finding an additional, competent setup man should be GM Ben Cherington’s number one priority.
Now that the team has apparently decided that Koji Uehara will be the closer, Cherington needs to bring in a quality arm quickly. Who should that guy be? Luke Hochevar? Luke Gregerson? Addison Reed? It’s hard to say. It will depend on the cost.
The bottom line is as I watched the Red Sox try to close out the Orioles in innings 6-9 on Saturday after Ryan Dempster gave them a gutty effort, I kept saying to myself that this team really needs another quality arm to make their pennant push.
In that particular game, John Farrell went to Craig Breslow to get five outs in the sixth and seventh followed by Junichi Tazawa in the eighth and Uehara in the ninth. All did a good job but as a fan do you really want Breslow and Tazawa as your main set up combo late in the season?
The Orioles line up is fierce. It may be the best in the American League top to bottom. Even though Breslow and Tazawa were effective they really had to grind and make excellent pitches. Sitting there watching it unfold in person you can feel the pressure.
Eventually that takes a toll both physically and mentally and can affect performance down the line. It’s clear the pen could use a boost.
Tazawa is capable of blowing people away but he’s been used a lot this year and it’s been hinted that he may be dragging a bit in the dog days. Breslow is what he is- a journeyman pitching better later in his career.
These two, along with Uehara are the main components of the bullpen right now. They are the guys who will protect leads in close games like Saturday night’s in Baltimore. And that’s a bit scary to me.
The other bullpen arms include just acquired Matt Thornton, who looks like more of a specialist, and guys like Jose De La Torre, Drake Britton, Alex Wilson (DL) and Pedro Beato. All four of those arms are young but lack high leverage inning experience.
So, if I’m Ben Cherington, as the deadline approaches I’m picking up my phone looking to improve a thin bullpen. The bonus? It will probably cost way less than trying to acquire a top starter like Jake Peavy or Bud Norris.
This Red Sox bullpen has been devastated by injuries to its top three relievers, Andrew Miller, Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey. The rest of the pen deserves a high level reinforcement from Cherington as they try to sort out how they will make their push for the AL East title.