Josh Winckowski's latest outing proves he's best suited to the Red Sox bullpen

2024 Boston Red Sox Spring Training
2024 Boston Red Sox Spring Training / Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

Opening Day is closing in, and the Boston Red Sox still do not have their starting rotation figured out. There are three pitchers in the running for two spots and the team is running out of time to make a decision.

Josh Winckowski is not among the pitchers gunning for a spot in the five-man rotation. He competed for a starting spot until he made a few Grapefruit League appearances that went awry, like the one against the Phillies on March 14 — Winckowski pitched 3.2 innings and gave up five runs on eight hits.

Since the rough start, Winckowski has been officially moved to the bullpen. The 25-year-old played well in his first relief appearance of spring.

Winckowski entered Boston's March 19 game against the division-rival Rays in the sixth frame in relief of Kutter Crawford, who posted the longest starting performance by a Sox pitcher this spring — Crawford allowed two runs in the first inning but was unfazed and he finished his outing with six strikeouts in 5.2 innings pitched.

Josh Winckowski's recent relief outing shows he fits the Red Sox bullpen best

Winckowski had a tough act to follow and he did it well. He pitched 2.1 innings, allowed two hits, fanned two batters and earned the win.

Many fans and reporters questioned Winckowski's ability to crack the starting rotation amid his competition on the team. Tanner Houck has been pitching well all spring and Garrett Whitlock's numbers aren't far behind. Winckowski also had a great 2023 season coming out of Boston's bullpen. He logged a 2.88 ERA and 82 strikeouts over 84.1 innings.

In 2022, Winckowski started 14 games with less success than his bullpen appearances. He was splitting his time between Worcester and Boston that year and he wasn't fully major-league-ready at that point, but his starts are overall lower quality than his relief appearances. Winckowski posted a 5.89 ERA in 2022, with 44 strikeouts over 70.1 innings.

Winckowski has expressed his frustration about falling out of the running for a starting position. The right-hander wished to blossom into a full-blown starter this preseason, but as one of the Sox's better relievers from last season, his talents are best suited to the 'pen.

More Red Sox reads: