"“There’s probably a couple of spots open,” Farrell said [of the bullpen]. “Are we completely solidified on the left side? Who’s going to be the guy that gives us multiple inning capability, particularly earlier in the year when you’re going to go to that multi-inning guy a little bit more than you might come midseason….”"
This sounds like a manager who knows he has to win this season. With two consecutive last place finishes in a market like Boston, he is probably right. His 2013 World Series win will not save him if the Red Sox falter again in 2016. Heck, if Terry Francona is capable of being fired, any Red Sox manager is. That is great news for Sox fans because it means Farrell, known for his painful dedication to letting veterans fight through months-long slumps, is considering changing the way he does things, which makes sense considering how strong the bench is this year with Holt, Shaw and Young.
With regard to his comments on the bullpen, he did not tell us anything we did not already know. There is room for seven relievers on the 25-man roster. Those definitely making the team include Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Robbie Ross, which leaves two open spots for everyone else to compete for in Spring Training. One of those spots is going to a right-hander and the other to a left-hander.
The competition for the right-hander slot will include Matt Barnes, Steven Wright, who is out of options, recently signed Carlos Marmol, with a dark-horse participant being prospect Pat Light. Considering he is out of options and on the 40-man roster, which means he either makes the final roster, accepts a demotion or becomes a free agent, Wright is the favorite. Farrell’s comment that the Red Sox want someone who can eat innings early on out of the bullpen supports his candidacy because Marmol and Light are not multiple-inning eaters. As for Barnes, a former starter, he is more than capable of getting more than three outs in an appearance, which is why he is Wright’s primary competition, but Farrell’s comments indicate Wright is the definite favorite.
On the left-side, Tommy Layne is the favorite for more reasons than one, including the fact he is out of options. That does not mean there won’t be competition in the form of Roenis Elias, who was acquired by the Red Sox in the Wade Miley deal during the offseason. Like Layne, Elias is tough on left-handed batters, holding them to a .227 BA in 2015. However, what makes Elias even more intriguing is his ability to get hitters out from both sides of the plate, having held right-handed batters to a .247 BA in 2015. Therefore, while he, like Layne, can serve as a specialist, Elias has the added benefit of being able to come in for any situation to face any batter, which brings me to my next point.
Elias started for the Mariners last season. He had his moments, but many think his swing-and-miss type stuff would play better in the bullpen and that is likely where the Red Sox would put him if he were to make the final roster. But having been a starter as recently as last year, Elias is stretched out and more than capable of being the guy out of the bullpen who has multiple-inning appearances.
Overall, Farrell has two spots open in his bullpen. One will go to a right-hander and the other a left. One of the final two pitchers has to be capable of pitching multiple innings. Therefore, if Elias is kept for purposes of being middle-relief, it is likely Barnes or Marmol will be the right-hander. However, if Layne makes the final roster, the Red Sox will need someone in middle relief and that gives Wright the edge on the right-side. My prediction – one of these two combinations compiles bullpen slots 6 and 7:
- Barnes and Elias; or
- Wright and Layne.
Next: No. 5 Spot