Red Sox’s 2023 bullpen surprise could play even bigger role in 2024

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

Waiver pickup Brennan Bernardino played an unexpected role for the 2023 Boston Red Sox. After injuries and struggles plagued the staff, Bernardino served as an opener six times, and he did the job well.

In just his second year of big-league action at 31 years old, Bernardino made an impact for the Sox. He pitched 50.2 innings and racked up 58 strikeouts. He logged a 3.20 ERA and became one of Boston's best relievers during a year the rotation didn't get much longevity out of its starters.

As one of the only lefties on Boston's pitching staff, Bernardino is likely going to see a lot of innings in the coming season. He's improving his stuff and adding new pitches to keep batters guessing.

Bernardino had some struggles against right-handed batters last season. Lefties averaged .169 against him but righties racked up a .304 average. This offseason, he's developed a new pitch to fool righties as effectively as he does southpaws.

Red Sox reliever Brennan Bernardino has added a new pitch to his arsenal

Bernardino has worked on a cutter with the encouragement of Red Sox mainstay Jason Varitek and new pitching coach Andrew Bailey. Bailey's coaching methods usually include finding one area of focus for players, and missing more right-handed bats with a new pitch seems to be just that for Bernardino.

“I’m ready to go,” Bernardino said. “I’m not going to get better with it unless I use it. So I’ve got to use it. Spring training is a good time for trial and error.”

Few expected Bernardino to be a bright spot for the Red Sox last season. He arrived in Boston with just two games of big-league service to his name after pitching in multiple countries to keep his MLB dreams alive. With few other lefty options for Boston's bullpen this season, Bernardino may well be a staple again.

Brandon Walter, Chris Murphy, Lucas Luetge, Joely Rodríguez, Jorge Benitez and Joe Jacques are the Red Sox's lefty options currently at spring training. Only some of those players have a shot at making the 26-man roster, but none had as good a season as Bernardino last year.

With a new pitch to dodge right-handers and not many other lefties in the mix, Red Sox Nation should prepare to see a lot more of Bernardino. Hopefully, his new pitch makes him even more dominant than last year — the pitching staff could certainly use the boost.

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