2. Carson Smith injury
As part of his bullpen reconstruction in the offseason, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski acquired Carson Smith from the Seattle Mariners, to bolster a bullpen that often was Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara then Katie bar the door last season. After back spasms limited him early on, Smith was getting ready to be the seventh inning guy for the Red Sox to start the season when he felt something in his arm on March 21st. The fact it was in the elbow area was alarming but instead of needing Tommy John surgery it appears Smith will be out about a month with a flexor muscle strain.
The bigger problem is who is going to take Smith’s place while he is out for hopefully only a month. Young fireballing righthander Matt Barnes has stepped up this Spring to perform very well. In 10.1 Spring innings through Sunday’s game, Barnes had not allowed a single run, walking just one batter. He struck out 11 batters and has allowed only seven hits in that span. It could very well be Barnes that assumes a prominent seventh inning role trying to get to the end of the bullpen to preserve a win.
Young righty Noe Ramirez has also pitched well this Spring allowing just two runs over 10.2 innings (1.69 ERA) walking six while striking out ten. Considering his performance has not been up to Barnes’ level this Spring and has not pitched as much in the majors (13 career innings) as Barnes (52 career innings), Barnes would seem to have the edge. Ramirez has the advantage of a more unorthodox motion and has minor league options, as Barnes does. Expect that Barnes will make the team out of Spring Training with Ramirez possibly also making the cut to allow maximum flexibility against the big right handed lineups of Baltimore and Toronto that the Red Sox will see in April.