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Gilligan's Bullpen

We started out the season with two closers, two outstanding Japanese set up guys, two power lefties, a solid veteran lefty, a crazy but effective long man, a back up long man, and some possible rookie add ons.  The bullpen was talented, deep, and had a wide variety of skill sets.  My last post was mostly about if Joel Hanrahan works out, the rest of the pen is lights out.

Well, the months have passed and we've seen some changes.  The two closers, Hanrahan and Bailey both flopped and exited to the DL for the rest of the year.  The power lefties aren't around with Miller having half of a career year before his foot exploded and he went to the DL for the year; and Morales just hasn't been healthy all year.  Aceves has remained on the Paw-Fenway commute all year and has been helpful as a starter.  Clayton Mortenson proved 2012 was an aberration and was bad enough to be released and not picked up by anyone else, so he's in Pawtucket.

That leaves us with Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Craig Breslow.  All three are having very solid years but there's reason to be concerned about each one lasting the full season.  Uehara is great but he's 38 and on a pace to set a new MLB career high for games and innings.  Tazawa is still young and not far removed from Tommy John.  He seems like a candidate to get tired as the season approaches the final stretch.  Former Yale pre-med Breslow is 32 and has had some injuries this year, but seems the mostly likely person to not experience a glitch.  Recently the Sox added veteran lefty Matt Thornton who's lost some power but should be a nice replacement for Miller.

This leaves us with a few questions: where are my reinforcements! and are our resources being allocated appropriately?

First, some options for reinforcements:
  • Minor League Reinforcements - Alex Wilson has already earned a spot in the pen and in the manager's heart.  He'll get every chance to succeed there after he gets back from a thumb injury.  That said, I'm concerned about his effectiveness.  He toughs it out but he also gives up lots of hits and walks while not striking out a ton.  Next up are Brandon Workman and Drake Britton.  Workman is in the rotation now but hopefully he'll be pushed out by a healthy Buchholz or a trade for a solid vet.  Britton is an exciting power lefty and has a chance to succeed quickly in the Boston pen.  Then there's the pitching staff that Adrian Gonzalez built: Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa.  Webster has shown flashes of brilliance in the majors but also disaster.  A power sinker tends to lend itself best to starting, but maybe he could find his way in the pen. De La Rosa is really the Sox great hope for a dynamic, game changing power arm entering the pen down the stretch.  He has some command issues but if he gets hot again in Pawtucket, expect him to get a shot in the pen.  The last player to mention is the former independent leaguer Chris Martin who's having a very nice year out of the PawSox pen.  Like Jose De La Torre and Pedro Beato, who are both in Boston now, there's a chance Martin is a surprise contributor.  But honestly, we need lights out bullpen bodies and it seems like De La Rosa, Britton and Workman are these main candidates to succeed at that level.
  • Help from the DL -  There's still a chance that Franklin Morales might work his way back into the fold.  If he's healthy, he's a very good pitcher.  He can get righties and lefties out.  A healthy Morales might even be a candidate to close someday.  And he's only 27 still.
  • The rotation - If Buchholz comes back healthy, it would likely be Workman who'd move to the pen.  But what if Buchholz comes back, Workman is better than advertised, and we make a big trade for a starter.  It would appear that Ryan Dempster might be a good candidate to help out the pen, even close.  He was an effective closer for a few years in Chicago through 2007.  He's having a decent year for the Sox but if we happen to have an over abundance at some point, he'd be a strong addition to the pen.  It'd be a good - and unlikely - problem to have.
  • Trade - The Sox might need to trade away some value to get one really good pitcher.  Ideally, the Sox get a closer which would allow Koji to dominate the 8th and take some days off when Tazawa can fill in.  That said, the Sox for once have a stockpile of young arms and should not trade any of them if they can help it.  If they have to trade one, they need an impact power bullpen guy.
Matt Thornton, formerly of the White variety of Sox. Now in Red.
I'm worried about the pen and it's massively important to the team.  They can't withstand another injury which is not a great place to be in with more than 60 games to go.  The Sox have their little island of survivors doing the best they can, but they need help.


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