Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s strategic use of Tyler Thornburg and Joe Kelly in a blowout game may pay dividends. Both may represent the glue to hold the bullpen together.
Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora tossed a lifeline to pitchers Joe Kelly and Tyler Thornburg on Sunday in Detroit. Both are key ingredients to a stable bullpen and continuing success of the pitching staff. The bullpen takes on additional importance with the current state of the rotation.
Thornburg was impressive against the Tigers with a seven-pitch inning and all were strikes. The significance is the previous day Thornburg was a pitching pinata allowing three runs in a dismal inning. In two previous appearances before being lit up, Thornburg was impressive allowing two hits in two innings pitched and no runs.
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Cora’s strategy is the old get back on the bike after you fall off. That provided a refreshing moment of redemption for the long recovering Thornburg. For Kelly, just the opposite happened. But credit is due for Cora for judiciously selecting the most opportune time for both hurlers with a comfortable eight-run advantage.
Kelly just couldn’t find the plate, allowing two walks and given a gift by home plate umpire Eric Cooper on an obvious ball four being called a strike with the bases jammed. Eventually, Jackie Bradley tracked down a gap line drive to maintain order. Kelly, however, continues to be as shaky as a teenager on his first date.
June and July have not been kind to Kelly, who is allowing almost a run an inning with 14.2 innings and 14 earned runs. The early season success has now dissipated and Kelly is drifting to below average with a fitful change of direction that may impact Kelly’s wallet with this being his free agent season. But there is also a glimmer of good news.
Failure of one can often lead to success for another and that is the sudden emergence of right-hander Ryan Brasier. Brasier had the proverbial cup of coffee with the Angels five seasons in the past and has been locked into the minors since. Brasier even had a 2017 season in Japan before returning stateside with a Red Sox contract.
Brasier may soon bottom out or you may (hopefully) see a late-blooming pitcher. That said, the real keys rests in the right paws of Kelly and Thornburg. Neither elicits a surge of “Game Over” when they enter, but that could change. The mysterious collapse of Kelly may suddenly go in the other direction – a baseball karma balancing act. And maybe Thornburg will be all expected when shipped to Boston.
The Red Sox have a prodigious offense and that allowed Cora to pick his spots with both. Both have to earn the confidence of the coaching staff, teammates, and the adoring masses looking for a late October flag.