The Boston Red Sox and their bullpen still have many questions to be resolved. One question, however, has been answered: righty relief pitcher Anthony Varvaro was a steal.
MassLive.com‘s Jen McCaffrey believes so, too. “Entering camp, not many knew just who the right-hander was or why he was an early bullpen favorite. As much as one can in spring training, Varvaro has proven himself as a key piece for this team. In four appearances, he’s given up one run on four hits.” The 30-year-old native of Staten Island, New York has three strikeouts in four innings of work, this spring, looking almost automatic in relief.
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Last season, Varvaro had 50 strikeouts to only 13 walks in 54.2 innings for the Atlanta Braves, before being traded to the Red Sox minor leaguer Aaron Kurcz and cash. While Kurcz has given up two runs on four hits and has hit a batter in just under three innings, the Red Sox look like they got the better pitcher and financial situation from the deal. Boston is only paying Varvaro $576 500 for 2015, while he is eligible for arbitration in 2016 and his earliest sniff at free agency will be in 2019.
It may be more than a minor league deal, but not by much.
Varvaro throws only three pitches to make him worth the money: a four-seam fastball, a curve, and a changeup. According to FanGraphs.com, he throws the heater just under 60% of the time, with 25% going to the curve. His changeup is clocked at 85 mph, which helps deceive batters whom are looking for his 92.5 mph fastball. It worked well enough for Varvaro to hold opposing lineups to a collective .224 batting average and earned him a 2.63 ERA in 61 appearances.
Feb 24, 2015; Ft. Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara (19) during workout drills at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
McCaffrey also makes note, yesterday, of Red Sox closer Koji Uehara‘s injury, which sheds more light on how important Varvaro will be, this season. “The closer pulled his hamstring earlier this week and will likely miss a good portion of the next few weeks rehabbing. Uehara got treatment today and will continue with some light throwing on Friday.”
Besides the injury, Uehara’s spring has not gone as planned, giving up two runs on seven hits in three innings of work. Not exactly as automatic as he was in 2013, shutting the door on opposing bats to win the World Series. Uehara suffered an injury last season that had people questioning whether a 40-year-old reliever was whom the Red Sox needed to re-sign in the off-season. Yet, a two-year, $18 million contract later, the Red Sox now are not even sure if Uehara will be ready for the start of the season.
With no big name in the bullpen, names like Varvaro and lefty prospect Henry Owens have come up in plans to reaffirm Red Sox Nation that the relief situation is handled. When it comes to Varvaro, so far so good. There seems to be no signs of needing to adjust to American League bats, with him coming from the National League. His stuff is serving up plates of emptiness for them. No need for the Papelbons or shelling out money for any other big names, Varvaro’s big arm at little pay seems to be enough, for now.
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