Banishing Hector Velazquez to Triple-A would seem cruel given how well he’s pitched this year. He’s been solid both as a spot starter and a reliever.
Velazquez won both of his starts filling in for injured rotation members, lasting at least five innings and giving up no more than two runs in both outings.
He’s been credited with three more wins and allowed only three earned runs in 15 innings of relief. Velazquez can be counted on to pitch multiple innings of relief, which has been invaluable to saving a bullpen that has struggled to get to closer Craig Kimbrel.
Overall, Velazquez is 5-0 with a 2.10 ERA this season. Only Kimbrel has been better among Red Sox relievers.
However, there are a few reasons why Velazquez could be one of the players to lose their spot.
He’s been solid against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .250 average and .580 OPS. Lefties have given Velazquez headaches though, batting .300 with a .924 OPS against him. If those splits continue then it may be hard to trust him for prolonged stints unless he’s facing a right-handed heavy lineup.
Velazquez also owns a pedestrian 6.1 K/9. It’s encouraging that he’s reduced his walk and home run rates but if those numbers regress to last year’s level and his strikeout rate doesn’t pick up then it’s hard to imagine he’ll sustain this success.
Wright’s return gives the Red Sox another long reliever option, which makes Velazquez more expendable. Unlike Johnson, Velazquez does have minor league options remaining. He’s done nothing to deserve a demotion but Velazquez could be the odd man out based on roster construction and baseball politics.