Junichi Tazawa Could Fit in Red Sox Bullpen


So we have atleast a foggy idea of what the Red Sox rotation looks like right? We also have somewhat of an idea what the bullpen will look like right? After today’s game, Bobby V seems to have something new to think about.

Can Junichi Tazawa contribute to the Red Sox in 2012? If so, where does he fit?

I’m not gonna lie, when

I hear Tazawa’s name the first thing that comes to my mind is that game in ’09 when he gave up a walk off homer in an extra innings Yankees-Red Sox game. The Japanese righty was young back then and he was only in the game because Terry Francona had exhausted the rest of his options, so I guess what I’m saying is I might be ready to forgive and forget. Anyways, after having Tommy John surgery prior to the the 2010 season and only pitching 3 innings for the Sox in ’11, it looks like Tazawa has a chance to make the roster come April 5th.

In Wednesday’s game against the Pirates, Tazawa showed his potential pitching three shutout innings giving up just a hit and striking out two. In seven innings so far this spring Tazawa has given up 3 runs, 6 hits, and 3 walks while striking out 6.

The question is, can he continue to pitch effectively into the season? In his 14 2/3 inning stint in Pawtucket last season Tazawa had a 2.55 ERA with better than a 6-1 k/bb ratio. So far he has carried that success over to ’12, save for the ridiculous k/bb ratio which would have likely came down as the innings mounted.

So this is what I’ve cooked up as a possible fit for Junichi Tazawa. What if he were to take Alfredo Aceves‘ spot in the bullpen? You could then use Aceves as the fifth starter with Daniel Bard in front of him in the fourth spot without putting too much strain on the bullpen. Tazawa is a starter by trade so he would be able to lighten the workload on the Sox’ bullpen and limit the impact that Bard and Aceves’ innings cap would have.

With this scenario the Red Sox could also put Aaron Cook in the bullpen as a seventh inning guy/long reliever/spot starter when needed and use Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey as the eighth and ninth inning guys, assuming they earn those jobs.

The candidates for the final few bullpen spots would then be Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales, Michael Bowden, Clayton Mortenson, Matt Albers and if healthy, Andrew Miller.

This is purely speculation on my part but it’s fun to look at the possibilities going into a new season. Things will change from now until April 5th, players will unfortunately deal with injury and others will struggle but as of right now this could be a way to get the most value out of Aceves and Bard without putting too much strain on the ‘pen.

It will be interesting to see how the “unconventional” Bobby Valentine will shape his pitching staff come Opening Day. We will surely have a better idea in the coming weeks as the final cuts are made and the team starts to come together.

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