The 2023 Boston Red Sox have played musical chairs with their left-handed relief pitchers all season. Joely Rodriguez and Richard Bleier were brought in the offseason to help sure up the bullpen. However, both have seen mixed results on the field while losing significant time to injury. The Red Sox have used Brennan Bernardino and Ryan Sherriff to try and fill their cleats.
Now, per Chris Cotillo, they'll try Chris Murphy. Cotillo reports he will join the team in Cleveland this week. It was unclear whether it would be a starting or relief role.
The 24-year-old was drafted out of college by the Red Sox in 2019 and is currently playing for their Triple-A affiliate in Worcester. Per SoxProspects.com, Murphy's fastball ranges from 90-93 mph topping at 96 mph. He also features an average curveball and a potentially above-average changeup. Per their assessment, Murphy needs to work on his consistency and command. He projects as a potential multi-inning reliever to the ceiling of a fifth starter.
Since being drafted, Murphy has moved up quickly through the Red Sox farm system needing just two seasons to reach Worcester. He was even added to the Red Sox 40-man roster in November 2022. Unfortunately, he has struggled with command since being at AAA contributing to him posting ERA of 5.50 and 7.71 during parts of two seasons.
Murphy spent his first 25 outings in Worcester as a starting pitcher. However, the Red Sox tried something different with him on June t as Murphy pitched as a reliever for the first time since he arrived in Worcester. The results were much more promising as he pitched three scoreless innings allowing one hit, no walks, and striking out three batters.
It seems likely that Murphy's stuff works better as a reliever. He can dial up his fastball a few ticks and opponents have less time through the batting orders to expose his deficiencies. Obviously, this was only one outing and he has to continue to show results in Worcester. However, if he can, he would be a tremendous asset for the Red Sox later in the season.
A multi-inning left-handed reliever would be a valuable weapon for Alex Cora. Red Sox fans have seen firsthand how a minor league starter can thrive as a reliever with Josh Winckowski being one of their best pitchers this season.
On June 1, Murphy pitched as a multi-inning reliever for the first time since arriving in Worcester with great results.
The Red Sox might also use Murphy in unconventional ways. Right-handed starter Tanner Houck has become infamous for dominating a lineup his first time through but struggling mightily on subsequent turns. Due to this, Ian Cundall of SoxProspects.com proposed a novel solution of pairing Houck with a left-handed reliever.
With the left-handed opener, the opposing team could not stack the lineup with lefthanded hitters to gain an advantage over the righthanded Houck. Houck could then pitch his first turn through the lineup where he usually dominates. Murphy's ability to pitch multiple innings might make him a natural partner for Houck.
Promoting internally also allows the Red Sox to use their resources to focus on other areas of team need and avoid the usually inflated cost of acquiring a trade deadline reliever. It is becoming more apparent that starting pitching and shortstop may be more significant areas of need especially if players like Chris Sale, Trevor Story, and Adalberto Mondesí do not return from injury as expected. Finding an internal solution for a lefty reliever could allow the Red Sox to focus on those other areas.
Interestingly, Brandon Walter is another lefthanded starter on the Red Sox 40-man roster having a tough season at Worcester. The 26-year-old is the seventh best prospect in the Red Sox system per MLB.com. However, I suspect the Red Sox prefer to keep him as a starting pitcher due to his overall skillset. Depending on his progress, he might be another name to watch as a midseason reinforcement.