What we learned about the Boston Red Sox bullpen on Opening Day
The Boston Red Sox lost to the New York Yankees, 6-5, in 11 innings on Opening Day. They used six different relievers to get through six innings of work after starter Nathan Eovaldi was pulled from the game. As I previously stated, Alex Cora is going to use trial and error to figure out how best to work his guys coming out of the pen.
What did we learn from yesterday’s Opening Day?
Yankee killer, Garrett Whitlock, will be used heavily coming into games for the Red Sox. We saw Cora go right to him to relieve Eovaldi with the Sox in the lead 4-3 at that point. He pitched 2 1/3 innings, giving up two hits, one earned run, and four strikeouts. It looked like Cora was going to ride him through the late innings. We know from spring training that Whitlock was being stretched out as a starter so it made sense to pitch him until he gave up a run.
It is clear that Whitlock is the best reliever the Red Sox have and has the most trust from Cora. It will be interesting to see how he will continue to be used moving forward. We know that it will be heavy usage especially in these tight games. This also shows that there is less confidence in the rest of the staff.
Some of that less confidence became evident when we did not see Matt Barnes come into the game at all. Cora used six different relievers in the game yesterday, all not named Barnes. It came to light after the game that Barnes had a tight back, but it is not deemed serious.
After ending the spring on a bad note with a lack of velocity and mechanic issues, this is not a good way to open up the 2022 season for Barnes. He was already coming off a terrible second half that led to him being left off of the American League Championship roster.
I have said it before and I still believe that Cora is going to give Barnes opportunities to pitch important innings for the Sox, but the caveat now is if he can stay healthy. Hopefully that starts in today’s game. He needs to show the team that he can become his former self from the first half of the season. If he does that, the bullpen just got a little stronger.
Speaking of getting a little stronger, Cora’s faith in Kutter Crawford seems to have done just that over the course of the spring and culminated in the first game of the season. The fact Cora turned to Crawford in the 11th over guys like Hirokazu Sawamura, Phillips Valdez, and Austin Davis speaks to his trust in the young righty.
Even though his outing didn’t go as well as most of us hoped it would have, I think Crawford will be an important piece for the Red Sox moving forward. His stuff is electric. It just didn’t work out today. Putting him in a high pressure moment in the game instead of easing him in also didn’t help. Hopefully the Sox will be up big later today and the young stud can get some more experience in a not-so-tense situation.