In a strange turn of events, the Red Sox have re-acquired relief pitcher Anthony Varvaro from the Cubs.
Boston initially received Varvaro from the Braves, who had designated him for assignment despite a 2.63 ERA in 54.2 innings the previous season, but then designated Varvaro after a shaky start to the season. In their tradition of scooping up Red Sox castoffs, the Cubs claimed Varvaro off waivers but sent him to Triple-A Iowa before he made an MLB appearance.
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But there’s another twist in the convoluted tale of Varvaro. He has been injured this entire time.
Varvaro was recently diagnosed with a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow, for which he will undergo season-ending surgery. Now, because the last time Varvaro pitched was with the Red Sox, he will return to Boston by virtue of a retroactive trip to the 60-day disabled list.
Granted, Varvaro won’t be pitching with the Red Sox anytime soon. Doctors do not expect Varvaro to begin throwing again until November, but he should be on track to begin the 2016 season with complete health.
That’s great news for the Red Sox as Varvaro has proven to be an excellent reliever when healthy. In 2014, he posted a 2.63 ERA backed by strong peripherals such as 8.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9, but although his 4.09 ERA to start this season was not terribly concerning, he clearly wasn’t right. His average fastball velocity declined a few ticks from 2014 and his command (he allowed 4.9 BB/9 in 11 innings) was far worse than his career levels (3.4 career BB/9).
It’s tough to know how things will play out a year down the line, but it doesn’t seem crazy to expect that Varvaro could be a part of the 2016 bullpen corps. What does seem crazy is Varvaro’s road to, from, and back to Boston, especially considering that his journey might not be finished quite yet.