Reliever Depth is Key in 2010


The Red Sox made a move on Wednesday that know one even heard about. When perusing the Sox transaction log, the blog OverTheMonster came across an interesting name, Brian Shouse. The 41-year old lefty was signed by the Sox to a minor league deal this week, in hopes he could be a lefty specialist in the bullpen. The Sox philosophy that you can never have enough pitching comes into play here, with several possible arms and only Papelbon with a defined role for 2010.

Currently, the Sox have at least 12-15 pitchers who have a legitimate shot at starting the season in the ‘pen and only around 8 spots to fill. Papelbon is secured in the closer role, obviously, but the set-up position is wide open. Between Hideki Okajima, Michael Bowden, and Daniel Bard, the Sox have options for the 7th and 8th innings. The concern lies with Bowden’s and Bard’s inexperience and Okajima’s inconsistency. Any one of those three could be a dominant pitcher at the end of the game, but they have also not proven to be consistent.

Beyond the set-up role the bullpen gets even messier. Some returning relievers, Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez (not to be confused with Ramon A. Ramirez) have an inside track to be a solid middle-relief core. They both pitched well at times and poorly at times in 2009, but also have the potential to be shut-down pitchers. Add into the mix Junichi Tazawa and Ramon A. Ramirez and it could get interesting.

Then we come to specialists and long relief. As mentioned above, the Sox are always looking to have at least one lefty specialist in the ‘pen. Brian Shouse, Dustin Richardson, and Fabio Castro are all possibilities for that role, with the edge to Shouse given his long major league tenure. In terms of a long reliever, it will probably fall on the middle relief core to fill that gap, but if the Sox do decide to add a true long reliever, Boof Bonser is probably their guy, given his career as a starter.

With tons of decisions still to be made, and probably more Spring Training invites to be handed out, February and March will be crucial months to see how the Sox bullpen will settle itself. Right now, it is the biggest question mark when evaluating the ’10 team, because of sheer potential to be spectacular or decent at best. This will be a story I will follow closely in Spring Training.