Junichi Tazawa is done for the Boston Red Sox
By Drew Peabody
Junichi Tazawa’s days in Boston are numbered. His days as a trusted member of the bullpen are over.
Junichi Tazawa may have blown his last chance to be a vital cog in the bullpen.
Since his last appearance was the 13th, he was the most rested member of the bullpen, next to death on righties Heath Hembree (.555 OPS against right handed batters), who last pitched in Pawtucket on August 11. Tazawa’s pitching started a rally for the Tigers by giving up three consecutive hits to Ian Kinsler, Erick Aybar and Miguel Cabrera to produce a run and put two runners on base.
John Farrell went to Brad Ziegler to try and stop the rally but the Tigers took a lead and would eventually win the game 4-3 as Mookie Betts lined out with the winning runs on base to end the game.
The Red Sox fanbase is certainly known for its knee-jerk reactions to DFA a player after a bad game. That isn’t going to happen to Tazawa. The guy can still throw hard and has a four pitch mix that can be effective at times. It is clear from his infrequent use of late, as the Red Sox are pushing for a playoff spot, he will be avoided in key situations. The Red Sox just don’t have any wiggle room any more to let Tazawa try and figure things out. Tazawa averaged twelve games finished over the last four seasons. This year he has two.
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The last two years, Tazawa has appeared in the eighth inning over 30 times. This year that figure is just 15 times. He has all of two holds since Ziegler joined the team in July (13 before his arrival). It is also clear that Ziegler is the set up man now. It also seems clear that Robbie Ross Jr. is ahead of Tazawa on the depth chart. With Barnes seemingly unavailable today, Ross Jr was the first one out of the pen after a wasted fantastic performance by Clay Buchholz.
While Buchholz seems to be turning his season around in his free agent year, Tazawa is giving the Red Sox every reason to let him hit the market at the end of the season. There might have been a time, such as his fantastic work in the 2013 American League Championship Series when he retired Cabrera in big spots, that he was the go-to man. His 4.58 ERA for the year and 15.75 ERA for August (seven earned runs over four innings) tells you that this may well be Tazawa’s last year for the Olde Towne Team. The usual over-use arguments don’t hold water anymore. He had a break this year with three weeks on the disabled list and he is even worse than before the injury.
Tazawa seems headed for that group of relievers that enters when the team is behind. It is clear with his August meltdowns that he cannot be trusted in games that are tied or the team is ahead. Barnes and Ross have stepped up this season, pushing Tazawa to the background.
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Going forward, he will be mostly an emergency option in such situations. The team, in a three way dogfight for the division, cannot afford to let any more late inning leads slip away. In 2017 you will see Tazawa wearing a different uniform.
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