The Boston Red Sox have activated relief pitcher Carson Smith off of the disabled list. He will return in hopes of stabilizing an up-and-down bullpen staff.
Carson Smith debuted with the Boston Red Sox in 2016 and totaled 2 2/3 innings before being shut down by injuries. Unfortunately, in 2017, not much as changed considering Smith has yet to appear in a major league game.
Smith was brought to Boston sporting a short, dominant track record. He had 78 1/3 innings under his belt while maintaining a 2.07 earned run average. Because of his high-leverage capability, Smith was expected to be the set-up reliever in the eighth inning while closer, Craig Kimbrel, shut the door in the ninth. However, the Red Sox organization and fans have yet to see that plan come to fruition.
This year, the Red Sox have yet to find someone capable of setting up Kimbrel at a consistent rate. Addison Reed was recently brought in to fill that role, but since his arrival, he has struggled. Due to a general lack of consistency in front of Kimbrel, the bullpen has been full of ups-and-downs all season long. During some stretches the bullpen looks dominant but there have also been times where it looks like there isn’t a single reliable arm out there.
As the Red Sox franchise already knows, a strong bullpen is absolutely necessary for a playoff push and for postseason play. Boston clearly needs to tighten up the relief staff and Kimbrel can’t be called upon for every high-leverage inning.
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Adding Smith may not be an immediate upgrade for the bullpen but it could lead to a late surge for the team. He likely won’t see high-pressure situations any time soon and will be worked in with ease. It’s been almost two years since he has seen a major league mound and it will take some time to be re-acclimated to the atmosphere.
However, it’s already September and the Red Sox are on a bit of a skid. They don’t have much time to secure their American League East division title and they don’t have much space to work with. Smith may need to be thrown into the fire in some of these early games if the BoSox want to survive.
Ideally, John Farrell, general manager of Boston, could give the eighth inning allowing Reed to handle earlier innings. This would shorten games for the starting pitchers while allowing Reed to get back on track. Meanwhile, the other strong arms like Brandon Workman, Fernando Abad, and Joe Kelly can be used in other situations.
Carson Smith may very well be the answer to the Boston Red Sox bullpen woes. However, he has missed almost two full seasons of major league play and it is unfair to expect so much from him. Only time will tell how Farrell chooses to use him and how Smith performs. For Boston’s sake, let’s hope both do well.