John Schreiber is emerging as a trusted option in the Red Sox bullpen

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 10: John Schreiber #46 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on May 10, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 10: John Schreiber #46 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on May 10, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Red Sox are turning to reliever John Schreiber in key moments

The Boston Red Sox bullpen has few reliable options to turn to late in a tight game but John Schreiber is earning his way into the circle of trust.

Red Sox relievers rank 20th in the majors with a collective 4.10 ERA, per FanGraphs. That includes contributions from Garrett Whitlock, who allowed only one earned run over 9 1/3 innings before moving int the starting rotation. Take Whitlock out of the equation and the rest of the bullpen owns a 4.94 ERA, which would be the second-worst in the majors.

Boston never officially named a closer and the committee approach hasn’t been working. The Red Sox are one of only four teams with more losses (12) by relief pitchers than saves (7).

If Whitlock is going to stick in the rotation for the foreseeable future, Boston needs more reliable arms to finish games. Even if they aren’t necessarily handling the traditional closer role, manager Alex Cora needs relievers he can rely on in key moments late in games.

Schreiber is starting to emerge as one of those options. His ascent in the bullpen hierarchy is a bit unexpected considering he was never a hyped prospect. Detroit’s 15th-round pick it the 2016 draft struggled in brief stints with the Tigers to begin his major league career but he had a strong track record throughout his minor league journey and is starting to put it together since arriving in Boston.

Schreiber made his Red Sox debut last season, allowing one run over three innings during a brief call-up before returning to Triple-A Worcester. He was dominant in Worcester to begin this season, posting a 1.46 ERA and 10.9 K/9 over 12 1/3 innings to earn another promotion to the big leagues.

In nine appearances with Boston this season, Schreiber has been nearly flawless. He allowed his first run of the season on Friday, an unearned run that resulted from an error by Alex Verdugo when he collided in shallow left field with shortstop Xander Bogaerts. As the outfielder running in on the play, Verdugo should have called off the infielders since it’s an easier play for him. Instead, the ball was dropped and Bogaerts is now banged up with an injury that has him listed as day-to-day.

The error meant that Schreiber wasn’t charged with an earned run, leaving his 0.00 ERA unblemished. He has struck out nine batters without walking any over 9 1/3 innings and he owns a 0.536 WHIP.

Even more notable than Schreiber completing another inning without an earned run is how he was utilized in this game. Boston won the game by a comfortable 7-3 margin but it was a two-run game when Schreiber entered in the eighth inning to face the heart of the Mariners order.

Coming through in high-leverage spots is becoming a trend for Schreiber. The final score of Thursday nigh’ts game would lead you to believe the game was a blowout fueled by Trevor Story’s three home runs. That wasn’t the case in the seventh inning when Schreiber retired the top three hitters in Seattle’s lineup in order with the Red Sox ahead by only two runs.

Schreiber isn’t an overpowering pitcher, utilizing a 93.5 mph fastball and a sweeping slider. He mixes in a sinking fastball that takes a tick off of the velocity with more downward movement. He uses all three pitches with similar frequency, making it more difficult for opposing hitters to sit on a particular pitch. All three pitches have a whiff percentage above 30% this season, per Baseball Savant. Schreiber will occasionally pull out a changeup, which he’s thrown 10 times this season without allowing a hit.

The lack of a notable pedigree and limited success at the big league level leads us to wonder if Schreiber can keep this up. Many scouting reports viewed him as a fringe MLB reliever who could provide the bullpen with some depth, not become one of its core members. It’s not unusual for relievers to come out of nowhere to provide value, even if they often have a limited shelf life. Middle relievers tend to be volatile but sometimes a pitcher can catch lightning in a bottle to turn into a key contributor.

Perhaps the league will catch up to Schreiber eventually but for now, he’s getting the job done. He has shown excellent command and poise in clutch situations. The Red Sox needed another reliever to step up to handle these important innings late in games and Schreiber has earned the opportunity to have his name called in these spots with the game on the line.

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