Red Sox September call-ups are out of control with latest bullpen additions
The Boston Red Sox are taking advantage of September roster expansion by loading up their bullpen with extra arms to cover for a struggling rotation.
Remember going to the circus and watching a parade of clowns climb out of a tiny car? You wonder how they possibly could have crammed all of them into a confined space. That’s what the Boston Red Sox bullpen looks like these days.
The latest round of September call-ups added four more pitchers to Boston’s bullpen. Right-handers Colten Brewer, Trevor Kelley, and Mike Shawaryn, plus lefty Bobby Poyner, joined an already crowded group of relievers on the big league club.
MLB allows teams to add anyone from their 40-man roster for the month of September. The intent is to lighten the workload for players on contending teams as they prepare for the postseason while giving teams that are out of the hunt for October a chance to evaluate their young talent. Unfortunately, the well-intentioned concept comes with unintended negative consequences for a sport that’s already struggling with pace-of-play concerns.
The Red Sox are now carrying 36 players on their active roster, including 21 pitchers. 17 of those pitchers are relievers since the team plans on moving forward with a four-man rotation. Why not? Bullpen games are far easier to manage with this many options at their disposal. Boston can nearly get away with using a different pitcher for each inning of a double-header.
Watching this group of relievers as they marched out to the bullpen before the game was comical. There’s hardly enough room for everyone to find a seat! Cozy? More like uncomfortable.
The number of pitchers hoarding in the bullpen is getting ridiculous but manager Alex Cora is happy to take advantage of the rules as his team clings to slim playoff odds.
"“Obviously it’s not perfect,” Cora told reporters. “Our starters are not giving us enough. We need matchups. We need arms…. were not gonna tap out. We’re not gonna wave the white flag.”"
Red Sox starters have struggled to go deep into games, resulting in the bullpen being overworked. That’s no longer an issue when you have 17 relievers.
The problem is that more pitching changes mean more interruptions throughout the game. Cora joked that they were going “Winter ball style” with games lasting five hours instead of four. Only nobody will be laughing if that actually happens.
Boston received a strong effort from starter Eduardo Rodriguez on Wednesday with the lefty tossing seven shutout innings against the Twins. That didn’t stop the Red Sox for using four different relievers to finish the final two innings.
Ryan Brasier did Ryan Brasier things, coughing up a pair of runs while recording only one out before Josh Taylor came in to rescue him. Darwinzon Hernandez brought a filthy fastball with him to the ninth inning to strike out the first batter he faced but his control escaped him following a lengthy delay when the home plate umpire was struck on the hand by a pitch. Brandon Workman came in to save the game by inducing a double-play.
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Would Cora have been as quick to pull a pitcher if his bullpen wasn’t overflowing with options? He probably has to now that their backs are against the walls with little margin for error. He may be forced into a similar strategy early in games if his starter sputters out of the gate, leaving us to sit through pitching change after pitching change.
Cora is wise to take advantage of this luxury but choppy innings with multiple stoppages to call in a new pitcher hardly makes for an enjoyable viewing experience.
Fortunately, MLB has recognized this dilemma and plans to rectify it with rule changes next year. Starting next season, MLB will allow 26 players on active rosters throughout the season with rosters expanding to a maximum of 28 in September. The changes allow for a bit more flexibility during the season while accomplishing the same goals that September call-ups were intended for with reasonable restrictions.
Changes are on the horizon but that does nothing to improve the present. The September slog will carry on as the Red Sox strategically utilize their overloaded bullpen to their advantage – and our detriment.