With Spring Training only a few short weeks away, the biggest question surrounding the Boston Red Sox is how to replace innings. Specifically, innings left by two key pitchers in their bullpen.
In an offseason surrounded by teams actively shaping up their rosters, the Boston Red Sox have calmly re-signed key pieces to avoid arbitration. In terms of a home run signing, it isn’t needed with this lineup mostly returning from a record season in itself. Every team has a weakness or a need to address and this teams’ biggest question mark heading into the season is the bullpen.
To much dismay of Sox fans, the World Series runner-up Los Angeles Dodgers scooped up fan favorite Joe Kelly. A Southern California native, Kelly signed for 3 years and $25 million plus incentives. During his time with the team, Kelly was known for his passion on the field and off it, exhibiting true Boston pride.
The other loss came at the hands of closer Craig Kimbrel leaving via free agency. While he remains un-signed, chances are he could still return to the team when it is all said and done. At this moment the biggest loss comes from the number of innings both pitched combined at 128, and who will fill that void.
The long road back
With any championship team, defending the title and repeating is always desired. The biggest pitfall to avoid is the “championship hangover” and start the season in a hole. If the playoffs showed us anything, it was how dependent teams are on their bullpen, especially late in games. Quite a few hearts raced when there was a lead heading into later innings and the bullpen was called upon, especially this past postseason. Benefiting from a young core of talent and farm system, one player, in particular, will be key to repeating, and that is RHP Ryan Brasier.
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Following a comeback story of his own, Brasier finally made it back to the show after spending time with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan since 2016. After getting his contract selected on July 8th, 2018, Brasier immediately saw action the following day and never looked back. In his 34 total appearances, Brasier was dominant with a 1.60 ERA over 33.2 innings pitched. With a .171 average and 0.77 WHIP, he also only gave up 6 hits during that span. Time and time again, Brasier delivered when needed.
Relieving the pressure
With the loss of Kelly and the presumed void left by Kimbrel, that large amount of innings is the biggest hole to fill. In his first full season with the team, Brasier will most likely see his innings total exceed well beyond what he has provided last season, and in his entire career.
That “wow” factor will be needed for potentially longer outings and over the duration of 162 games versus 34. With questions surrounding other guys like Steven Wright, Colten Brewer, Heath Hembree, Brian Johnson and Tyler Thornburg, Brasier can be that consistency needed to keep this team dangerous all around.
The new choice at closer?
With the possibility the Red Sox don’t go deeper into the luxury tax with a new signing and need a closer close to home, Brasier and fellow RHP Matt Barnes both provide strong cases. Manager Alex Cora may have to work his magic, but the team does have options way cheaper than Kimbrel is wanting.
While it is uncertain how the bullpen will piece together come Spring Training, one thing is certain, and that is Brasier’s increased role in the Red Sox’s 2019 season will be vital.