Boston Red Sox: Heath Hembree deserves the 8th inning job

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 03: Heath Hembree
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 03: Heath Hembree /

The Boston Red Sox are in need of a consistent bullpen arm not named Craig Kimbrel, and they may have just found their man in RHP Heath Hembree.

The Boston Red Sox are off to a great start this season. However, there are many things that need to be addressed. Baseball season is all about making adjustments, and it’s important that the Red Sox don’t waste time figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

One thing that hasn’t been perfect so far is the bullpen. Craig Kimbrel is as trustworthy as relief pitchers come, but can the same be said for any of the other Red Sox relievers? In my opinion, not yet.

One man, however, has begun to emerge as a candidate for “go-to” status: Heath Hembree. So far this season, Hembree has appeared in 3 games in which he’s thrown 4.1 scoreless innings. In those innings, he’s struck out 6, allowed only 2 hits and has recorded an impressive 0.69 WHIP.

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Sure, the sample size is small, but Hembree isn’t just going through the motions and getting lucky with results. Quite the contrary, actually. Hembree has flashed some elite pitches when he’s been on the mound. A 90mph wipeout slider? Absolutely disgusting.

Hembree should get a bigger role

Hembree’s pitch arsenal consists of 3 pitches: a fastball, slider, and curveball. According to FanGraphs, Hembree throws his fastball 57.9% of the time, his slider 36.8% of the time, and his curveball 5.3% of the time. The three pitches come in at average velocities of 94.6mph, 88.2mph, and 75.8mph, respectively.

With pitches like those in his back pocket, Hembree has the potential to be an extremely productive member of the Boston Red Sox bullpen. In fact, he already deserves a larger role, in my opinion.

Heath Hembree should serve as the Red Sox’ 8th inning man. He’s the perfect set-up guy for Craig Kimbrel, and if he keeps pitching the way he has been then opposing teams won’t stand a chance.

Considering the other options (i.e. Matt Barnes, Carson Smith, Joe Kelly), this is an easy decision. Hembree has flashed dominant stuff in his 3 appearances in 2018, so why not let him serve as the bridge to the closer?

At this point in the season, I see no good reason why anyone else should be pitching in the 8th inning. Manager Alex Cora has nothing to lose by giving Hembree this opportunity to contribute on a more consistent basis.

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The Red Sox have today off and will return to Fenway Park for their home-opener on Thursday, April 5th. Let’s hope Hembree gets the nod in the 8th inning. Go Sox!