Surprise emerging pitchers at spring training give credit to Red Sox coaching hires

2024 Boston Red Sox Spring Training
2024 Boston Red Sox Spring Training / Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

The Red Sox never signed the ace fans hoped for. But they did sign a new pitching coach who was expected to change the game for Boston's staff, as well as a new director of pitching to oversee their progress.

It sounds like they're meeting expectations. Andrew Bailey and Justin Willard come with quite a notable pedigree, after all.

Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic highlighted all the changes the new hires are making to better Boston's staff. The day after Willard's hire, Boston's pitching staff and coaches group chat got a new name: Run Prevention Unit. The pitchers' jobs are clear and the new coaching staff is hammering home their expectations for the coming season. They're working hard to honor the chat title.

Bailey and Willard have been simulating an in-season atmosphere at Fenway South. Pitchers have been throwing live batting practices earlier than usual, beginning on the second day of camp. They've been blasting music in the park to re-create the feeling of a crowded ballpark. The changes seem to be serving the staff well.

Andrew Bailey and Justin Willard are helping the Red Sox find the best version of their pitching staff

Bailey is known for helping players hone their existing skills rather than pushing new pitches in his training. He helps the pitchers to find smaller areas on which they should focus, such as velocity and movement. It's well established that his philosophy works — Bailey has helped three pitchers win the Cy Young Award in his young career as a coach.

His methods are individualized. He and Willard poured hours into personal plans for each of the hurlers at spring training, including the non-roster invitees. The focus of training is allowing unexpected pitchers to shine this preseason.

Jorge Benitez and Justin Slaten have been collecting great reviews for their progress under Bailey and Willard's new program.

Benitez is a nonroster invitee at Boston's spring training after he was picked up from Seattle's farm system this winter. According to manager Alex Cora, the Sox have been looking at Benitez for a while and his stuff has been exceeding the team's expectations.

“Benitez, the lefty, he’s got good (expletive),” Cora said.

Slaten, another hurler the Sox acquired this offseason, has been showing out and catching eyes as well. Slaten came to Boston from the Mets who acquired him as a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Rangers. Due to Rule 5 regulations, Slaten needs to be on Boston's roster all season, and it sounds like there's a good possibility for that to happen.

Cora said Slaten brings a new level of velocity to the Red Sox's bullpen, which was severely lacking in speed last season. He has swing-and-miss stuff and Boston is excited to see what he can bring to the big leagues.

Despite not signing a starter this offseason as many fans expected they would, the Red Sox's pitching staff seems to be unlocking the best possible version of itself through Bailey's system.

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