Cooper Criswell gearing up for revenge game vs Rays after Red Sox revived him

Washington Nationals v Boston Red Sox
Washington Nationals v Boston Red Sox / Winslow Townson/GettyImages

Many Boston Red Sox fans hadn't heard of Cooper Criswell before their favorite team signed him in Dec. 2023.

The righty has served as an anchor to Boston's once-desperate starting rotation. With Nick Pivetta, Garrett Whitlock and Brayan Bello on the sidelines, Criswell stepped up and dealt for the Red Sox when he was needed most.

The 27-year-old has pitched to a 2.10 ERA in six appearances for Boston. He's collected 25 strikeouts and five walks over 25.2 innings. On May 16, he'll show his former team what they're missing.

Criswell played for the Tampa Bay Rays last season. They designated him for assignment in November in favor of adding other prospects to the roster. Criswell has turned his career around with the Red Sox organization.

Red Sox and Cooper Criswell have a chance to split first series with Rays

He recorded a 5.73 ERA in 33 innings with Tampa in 2023. He made 10 relief appearances, but no starts. The righty tossed 27 strikeouts last year and he's just two shy of his previous total this season.

Maybe Andrew Bailey helped Criswell become the hurler he's been for the Red Sox, but chief baseball officer Craig Breslow saw his potential when he signed him over the winter. Breslow referred to Criswell as "an elite strike thrower," and his assertion has shown in his play.

Criswell competed for a spot in the Sox's starting rotation during spring training and he narrowly missed the mark. Boston sent him to Worcester to stay in starting shape rather than relegating him to the bullpen and its choice paid off.

Barring any setbacks in his progress, Whitlock is expected to start during Boston's series at Tampa Bay next week. All of the Sox's starters will be back in action and there's still uncertainty about what they plan to do with Criswell when there is no longer a slot for him among the starters. They could keep him in the big leagues as a long-relief option, which would make sense now that Josh Winckowski has been optioned to Triple-A, or he could go to Worcester himself to maintain his starting form.

Boston's May 16 game against Tampa Bay could be Criswell's last opportunity to start for the big league club for a while. A series split against his former ballclub and the Red Sox's third-place standing in the American League East are on the line. Criswell has delivered on the mound every other time before, and he'll get the privilege to show the Rays what he can do in person.

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