Red Sox: Carson Smith nearing return


The Boston Red Sox will get a much needed lift in their bullpen from the impending return of Carson Smith.

The Boston Red Sox should be getting a key member of their bullpen back in the near future.

Carson Smith pitched in an extended spring training game on Thursday, according to a report from It was the first live game action for the right-handed reliever since he went down with a flexor strain last month. Smith is expected to throw in another extended spring training game on Saturday before going on a rehab assignment with one of the Red Sox minor league affiliates next week.

As long as Smith continues to progress as well as he has been, it won’t be long before he’s back in Boston.

The Red Sox could certainly use him. Boston’s bullpen has thrown 56 innings already this season – only one less than an Oakland Athletics bullpen that has compiled the most innings in the league, although the A’s have also played one more game than the Red Sox have.

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Not only has Boston’s bullpen been busy, they haven’t been particularly good, ranking 11th in the league with a collective 3.70 ERA. Some of the damage has come against fringe relievers like Noe Ramirez and William Cuevas, at least one of whom won’t even be on the roster once Smith returns. Yet the typically reliable Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara are both sporting an unsightly ERA unbecoming of their usual standards.

Kimbrel will be fine, as he’s still throwing heat in the upper 90’s and striking out batters at an insane rate. His sub-par numbers are a mirage created by one bad outing in a small sample size.

Uehara likewise has been victimized by one disastrous outing where he lacked his usual pinpoint control, leading to the Toronto Blue Jays pounding him for four runs in an outing where he managed to record only one out before getting the hook. In his case there is a bit more concern, only because the team needs to be cautious with the 41-year old’s workload, yet manager John Farrell ended up using him in 8 of the team’s first 12 games.

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Adding Smith back to the mix not only allows him to replace one of those fringe relievers, he also eases the burden on the rest of the bullpen. With another reliable arm to turn to late in games, Farrell doesn’t need to lean as much on Uehara or Junichi Tazawa, both of whom have shown a tenancy to wear down late in the season due to overuse.

The Red Sox acquired Smith from the Seattle Mariners in the Wade Miley deal last winter. The 26-year old has posted a career 2.07 ERA and 11.72 K/9 rate over 78.1 innings that cover parts of two seasons in the big leagues. Along with the addition of Kimbrel as the team’s new closer, Smith is one of the primary reasons that people are optimistic about this revamped Boston bullpen that was a significant weakness last year.

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With a healthy Smith on board, Boston should have one of the league’s strongest bullpens. We waited all winter to see what this overhauled core of relievers could do and we are getting closer to finally seeing them at full strength.