The bullpen of the Boston Red Sox has hit a few snags over the past few weeks, but reliever Ryan Brasier has proven to be a steady force.
The answer to the bullpen concerns of the Boston Red Sox may have been in front of us all along.
And it’s coming from the unlikeliest of sources.
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Since being added to the 40-man roster and being called up in early July, Brasier (0-0, 1.13 ERA) has quietly been one of the more consistent pitchers of a sometimes shaky Boston bullpen. He has appeared in 15 games, tossing 16 innings while striking out 15. During this frame, he’s only allowed eight hits.
Signed to a minor-league contract in spring training, Brasier might have been considered an afterthought for the Boston Red Sox. He hadn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2013 — with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim — and had bounced around after having Tommy John surgery in 2014.
At the age of 30, Brasier was impressive at Pawtucket, where he pitched 40.1 innings. He struck out 40, had a 1.34 ERA and held opponents to a .215 batting average.
Derided by some regarding his lack of making a trade for a reliever at the trade deadline, it’s possible Dave Dombrowski had an ace up his sleeve in Brasier the entire time.
Or perhaps there was a plan in place for the bullpen after all; a plan involving the use of Brasier, Craig Kimbrel, and a slew of starting pitchers.
Boston Red Sox use of starting pitchers in the pen
Hector Velazquez — a former starting pitcher — has been pretty solid in long-relief throughout the most of 2018. He has posted a 7-0 record with a 2.82 ERA in 34 appearances.
Brandon Workman is another pitcher who had started on occasion who is now working out of the bullpen. Workman is 2-0 with a 2.59 ERA in 26 games.
Maybe, just maybe, Dombrowski and manager Alex Cora had a vision for the stretch run knowing they’d be getting pitchers back from injuries.
Eduardo Rodriguez appears to be on his way back, which would lead to another decision: Does he get back into the rotation or head to the bullpen?
If he starts, the call would likely mean Brian Johnson going to the pen. Johnson (3-3, 3.95 ERA) has provided some quality innings while in the rotation. His future value might lie, however, in the bullpen.
It’s a small sample size, but Pomeranz has made two relief appearances now, pitching three scoreless innings while allowing only one hit.
A bridge from the first relief pitchers to Craig Kimbrel — a shutdown guy who can get it done nightly — has failed to materialize. Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes have had their moments, but both have also struggled.
With a comfortable lead in the standings and it still being August, perhaps it’s time to allow Brasier to audition for the 8th-inning role. He has a mid-to-high 90’s fastball plus an excellent breaking ball.
And if Brasier’s proven anything over the past four years, he’s certainly up for a challenge.