The Boston Red Sox bullpen has a few relievers who have earned their way into the circle of trust. Which ones make the cut?
It’s getting late in a tightly contested game. The starting pitcher has been given a pat on the back from the manager and sent to the showers. It’s up to the bullpen now. With the game potentially being put on the line with every pitch, which relievers can you trust to carry the team to the finish line? The Boston Red Sox have a few pitchers in their bullpen who have earned that trust.
Let’s start with the closers. Yes, there are two of them, as the Red Sox have ventured down the path other clubs have explored with their bullpens in recent years, mixing and matching late in games rather than splurging for a high-priced “proven closer.”
Matt Barnes has been better than ever, posting a 1.76 ERA and 0.85 WHIP through 15 appearances. He’s struck out 28 batters in 15 1/3 innings for a 16.43 K/9 that leads all American League relievers. Perhaps more importantly, he’s only walked four. Free passes were a problem for Barnes last year but his 2.3 BB/9 would be his lowest walk rate since his brief major league debut season in 2014. Alex Cora doesn’t always call on him in classic save situations. The manager hands Barnes the ball to get the most important outs late in a game, which can come before the ninth inning, proving no pitcher in this bullpen is trusted more than he is.
When Barnes is needed earlier in the game or otherwise unavailable, it’s been Ryan Brasier closing out the ninth inning. The 31-year old leads the team in saves, converting six of eight opportunities. Brasier had a couple of messy outings to begin the month but he’s settled down with a pair of flawless innings since and was brilliant in April. Brasier isn’t the typical flame-thrower teams favor in the closer role but he’s striking out nearly a batter per inning and rarely walks anyone. He was the Cinderella story of last season’s bullpen and his (mostly) solid results to begin this year makes him worthy of his high leverage role.
You would expect the two pitchers sharing closing duties to be in the circle of trust but who else can we count on to bridge the gap to them?