Despite a clear need for a back of the rotation starter, the Boston Red Sox plan to use the freshly acquired Jhoulys Chacin as a reliever.
The Boston Red Sox have struggled to fill the back end of their rotation all season. Now it appears they’ve decided they don’t need a fifth starter after all.
The expectation was that Jhoulys Chacin would fill that role after Boston picked him up off the scrap heap last week. Apparently, that’s not the case. Manager Alex Cora told reporters on Tuesday that Chacin will be eased into the mix through one-inning stints out of the bullpen.
Chacin hasn’t worked as a reliever since 2016 when the Los Angeles Angels bounced him between their rotation and bullpen. He’s been a starter for most of his career and a fairly good one the last two seasons. The wheels fell off in Milwaukee this year. Chacin went 3-10 with a 5.79 ERA in 19 starts before the Brewers released him.
Boston believed in his track record enough to take a flier on him but not quite enough to trust him in the rotation. That’s a bit surprising considering his limited experience working out of the bullpen. Chacin’s career ERA as a reliever (4.26) is higher than he’s produced as a starter (3.98).
While he may not be ideally suited for a relief role, it’s the best option for him at the moment. Chacin hasn’t appeared in a game since July 24 with the Brewers. He couldn’t be expected to last more than a few innings following a lengthy layoff and there isn’t much time to build up his workload in the final month of the season.
He could work his way up to tossing multiple innings in appearances down the stretch but don’t expect him to join the rotation unless he’s used as an “opener.”
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Cora expects to utilize a bullpen game every fifth day for the remainder of the regular season. They were able to get away with this strategy at the end of August thanks to a fortuitous schedule allowing them to skip their fifth starter on off days. September roster expansion makes it feasible to stick with that plan. Chacin was one of four pitchers called up to the big league roster to begin the month.
A deeper bullpen will make it easier for Cora to mix-and-match pitchers throughout the game, keeping the opposing lineup off balance and preventing them from facing the same pitcher twice in the game. It’s similar to what the Red Sox did in the postseason last year when they used a few of their starting pitchers for an inning or two out of the bullpen between starts.
If the Red Sox overcome the odds to make the playoffs, they won’t need a fifth starter in October. Chacin would be a longshot to make the postseason roster so there’s little incentive to rush him into the rotation unless they want to get a look at him as a potential cheap solution to the back of their rotation next season.