Sometimes, one needs creativity to fix a problem. With bullpen issues, the Boston Red Sox have signed reliever Casey Janssen to see what he’s got left in him.
Late last night, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe tweeted the following:
As people continue to question the Red Sox bullpen, with newly-acquired Carson Smith now to undergo Tommy John surgery and a number of other relievers giving up too many runs in close games, Boston needs some definite help. The problem is that MLB teams are not looking very eager to trade top pitchers, starters or relievers, and they are not just going to give them away, hence this latest news.
At the age of 34, Casey Janssen has seen much in his career. He spent nine years with the Toronto Blue Jays, looking like a dominant closer from 2012 to 2014 when he racked up 91 of his career 110 saves. In 2015, he made the decision to take his talents to Washington D.C. to play for the Nationals, but his role was diminished to a setup man. It worsened to a benching when he posted a 4.95 ERA in 48 appearances.
After the season, Janssen was granted free agency and he signed with the San Diego Padres in February 2016. However, he couldn’t impress fast enough and he was released in March. Jeff Todd of MLBTradeRumors.com reported that “[Janssen] was unable to make up for a decline in fastball velocity that has worsened over the years.” To be fair to Janssen, his fastball was never that fast to begin with, reaching only 91.7 mph in three of his seasons. Yet, the tapping out at 88-89 mph was not cutting it for the Padres, who then made Janssen available by releasing him.
That, however, might not mean much to a desperate team in dire need of help. In terms of the bullpen, the Baltimore Orioles are ranked second in the majors with a 2.94 team ERA, while the Red Sox are in 11th place with a 3.57 ERA. These teams are tied for the American League East division lead, but only because Boston has the best run production in baseball. Their pitching to start and also to finish the game has been suspect, despite bringing in free agents David Price and Craig Kimbrel to sure up the pitching staff. If the Red Sox are going to hang with the Orioles for the summer months, they need some help and fast.
That help could be Janssen, considering he knows the division really well from his days in Toronto. It was only a year and a half since Janssen was pitching against the top A.L. East hitters on a regular basis, shutting the door on them for many Blue Jays victories. It was also only a little while ago since his fastball’s speed dipped, too.
Janssen is going to get his chance to prove the doubters wrong and that he does have some stuff left in the proverbial tank. However, the Red Sox won’t see him immediately. Janssen is starting in Class-A Lowell before moving up to Triple-A Pawtucket. If he can’t impress quickly in the minors, this experiment may be for nothing. It could also be like finding lightning in a bottle if Janssen does find his game. He was known for moving quickly on the mound, proceeding from pitch to pitch with deadly accuracy for the Blue Jays, so maybe he will move quickly up the minor ranks back to the big club. Or he may move quickly out the door, as the career may be over. Either way, it’s going to be a fast journey.