Boston Red Sox: Top 3 position battles to watch during Spring Training

Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (19) Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (19) Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /
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Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes (32) (Mandatory Credit: The News-Press) /

Boston Red Sox position battle No. 3: Closer

For most of the 2021 season, it seemed like the Red Sox had lucked their way into finding a dominant closer in Matt Barnes. Barnes was lights out in the first half of the season, and ended up earning his first All-Star berth because of it. After the All-Star break though, Barnes collapsed, and he reverted back to the streaky pitcher he had been throughout much of his career. He was so bad, he even got left of the Sox ALCS roster in the playoffs.

Despite not adding a closer this offseason, the need is still pressing heading into the 2022 season. Similar to last season, there isn’t a clear cut option to take this role and make it their own. While that is certainly an issue, the main problem is that none of the players competing for this role are really that good either.

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The three main candidates figure to be Barnes, Garrett Whitlock, and the recently re-signed Hansel Robles. Whitlock was fantastic in pretty much any role last season, and he seems like he would be a perfect fit to close games, but Cora seems to be leaning towards inserting him into the starting rotation for whatever reason. Robles has experience closing games, but he is very inconsistent, and may not even make the roster considering he signed a minor-league deal.

Whitlock would be the obvious choice considering how dominant he was last season out of the bullpen, but Cora seems to want to turn him into a starter. I’m not a huge fan of that, as this team clearly needs someone in the backend of the bullpen, and Whitlock proved he could be that guy last season. Plus, we have seen what can happen when you try to covert a dominant reliever into a starting pitcher (a la Daniel Bard).

It seems like Barnes has the inside track to the ninth inning as long as he can prove he’s no longer wetting the bed everytime he takes the mound in Spring Training. Barnes could dominate and it may not even be a competition, but given how bad he was in the second half of the 2021 season, I wouldn’t count on that happening. Robles is a nice security blanket, but unless Cora has a change of heart with Whitlock, it seems like it’s Barnes position to lose right now.