|Power isn’t everything to John Farrell when it comes to a good bullpen||04.18.15 at 7:18 pm ET|
As the Red Sox assembled their 2015 bullpen over the winter, there were some questions as to whether they had enough “power” arms in the back end of games.
Power bullpens have become all the rage among those teams who fancy themselves World Series contenders. Kansas City is the most classic example, as the Royals rode a trio of 98-plus arms to the Fall Classic last year. Detroit has had success in the past employing a similar formula. In the National League, St. Louis has had a great deal of success with pitchers who overpower batters at the end of games, led by Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez (now a starter).
But the Red Sox saw a different way. With Matt Barnes the only true power arm in camp with a shot at the roster, and with names like Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Edward Mujica already with spots on the club, the Red Sox decided to go in a different direction. The Red Sox added Anthony Varvaro, Alexi Ogando and perhaps the hardest thrower of the bunch, Robbie Ross Jr.
The results have not been bad so far. Entering Saturday, in 42.2 innings, they’ve allowed 33 hits and walked 14 for a 1.10 WHIP. The ERA is 2.74 and they allowed four of 12 inherited runners to score. They’ve had just two save chances and converted one, with Mujica’s blown chance in New York being the only missed opportunity.
If Red Sox relievers have proven anything, they’ve shown you don’t have to overpower batters to get good results, including strikeouts, recording 37 so far in 2015 before Saturday.
“Location is important but I think what we have are a number of relievers that use an assortment of pitches rather than rely on arm strength and velocity,” Farrell said. “Bottom line is outs. How they get them, the ability create some mishits. Sure, strikeouts are good but we have guys capable of strikeouts, even though they’re of average major league velocity.”
Another trait Red Sox relievers have is experience. And with experience comes adjustments. Mujica threw mainly fastballs on April 10 in New York before Chase Headley timed one and tied the game. Friday night, he opened with seven straight splitters and recorded a key strikeout of Manny Machado to bail out Joe Kelly.
“His last two, three outings, he’s gone to that pitch a little bit more than the night in New York where there were a high number of consecutive fastballs,” Farrell said of Mujica. “That’s not to say he doesn’t have confidence in his fastball. He’s not afraid to throw it for a strike and put a hitter away with it.”
That was followed by scoreless performances from Tazawa and Uehara, both masters of the split-fingered fastball.
“Well, it says in those games, our bullpen has pitched very effectively, and that was certainly the case [Friday] night,” Farrell said. “We had a lot of experience last year in one-run games. Unfortunately, it might not have always been to our advantage. We have veteran players that made good decisions in moment on the field.”
|Junichi Tazawa says recent struggles not due to fatigue||08.19.14 at 12:49 am ET|
The runs will go down as unearned for Junichi Tazwa, but the onus falls on him alone.
With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the eighth inning, Howie Kendrick hit a ground ball back to the mound that should have been an easy inning-ending double play. But as the ball rolled to the third-base side, Tazawa was indecisive on whether or not to backhand the ball to make the play at home.
Instead, the right-hander misplayed the ball, then threw it away trying to get the lead runner at home, allowing a second run to score. The result: two errors for Tazawa and two runs for the Angels to extend their lead to 4-1 in an eventual 4-2 win Monday night.
“It was an in-between play. I was thinking of going to the backhand or just go with the front and I was caught in between,” Tazawa said through an interpreter. “If I had knocked it down straightforward I would’ve had a better shot. It rolled to the third-base side so that made it a little bit difficult, but I should’ve made that play.”
Even without the errors, it was another tough outing for Tazawa, continuing what have been regular occurrences as of late. He gave up a leadoff walk to Chris Iannetta, a double to deep center to Kole Calhoun and loaded the bases by intentionally walking Albert Pujols.
Tazawa has been one of the Sox’ most reliable relief pitchers in the last two seasons, posting a 3.18 ERA in 119 innings since the start of 2013. But his recent struggles have made it natural to suggest that his workload might be catching up to him in the last two months. He has a 5.29 ERA since July and has put runners on base in 13 of his 21 appearances in that time, leaving himself in a number of difficult spots. Read the rest of this entry »
|Closing time: Red Sox bullpen allows 5 runs in loss, spoiling 5-run comeback against Orioles||07.06.14 at 6:42 pm ET|
Uncharacteristically, the group allowed a total of five runs in the Red Sox‘ wild, 7-6, extra-innings loss to the Orioles on Sunday afternoon.
Burke Badenhop and Junichi Tazawa allowed four runs on six hits in the seventh inning to allow the Orioles to take a 6-1 lead — this following another shaky but quality outing from Jake Peavy.
“They strung some hits together,” Farrell said of the top of the seventh. “This is a very good hitting lineup that we’re going up against. That same part of the order, once again as it was the case last night, they’re able to string some base hits. They use the whole field. Combination we tried to throw at them didn’t slow them down.”
Following a dramatic rally to force extra-innings, the Red Sox eventually fell in the 12th inning when Edward Mujica allowed a run in his second inning of work. David Lough tripled to lead off the inning and then was driven in by J.J. Hardy on a single to left for the game-winning run.
This put a damper on a terrific seventh-inning rally, as the Sox scored five runs to tie the game at 6 at the time. David Ross started things by clubbing his fifth homer of the season to the triangle in right-center. Then the Sox had a string of five straight hits off Orioles relievers as Xander Bogaerts, Daniel Nava, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli all collected RBI singles in the inning.
“I thought our guys did a tremendous job in that seventh inning to come back and erase a five-run deficit,” Farrell said. “We get five consecutive base hits, strung some hits together finally to mount that inning.”
The Red Sox dropped two of three to the Orioles over the weekend and fell to 39-49, 10 games below .500.
Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox‘ loss.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
— After recording his first hit in 27 at-bats in the bottom half of the third inning, Bogaerts didn’t carry over any momentum to the field as his throwing error allowed the first Orioles run to score in the top of the fourth.
Nelson Cruz led the inning off with a double, and then Delmon Young hit a grounder to third. Bogaerts double-pumped and airmailed his throw into the Red Sox dugout, allowing Cruz to score from second base.
|Closing Time: Sox bullpen falters, Indians snap Boston’s seven-game home win streak||06.14.14 at 7:31 pm ET|
Entering Saturday’s game, the Red Sox bullpen posted a collective 2.90 ERA – good for sixth lowest in baseball this season.
The loss snaps Boston’s brief two-game win streak and seven-game home winning streak, which originated on May 28 against the Braves.The Red Sox are now 8-15 this season in one-run games this season.
With the Red Sox leading 2-1 going into the seventh, Breslow entered the game and surrendered two-straight singles to Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Brantley, putting runners at the corners with no outs.
Jason Kipnis followed with a groundout to Dustin Pedroia, who proceeded to throw home in an attempt to retire the advancing Cabrera. While the throw was in time, Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski mishandled the ball, allowing Cabrera to score and put runners on first and second.
After walking David Murphy to load the bases, Breslow was pulled for Junichi Tazawa, who proceeded to walk Carlos Santana, forcing in a run and giving Cleveland a 3-2 lead. It was the first time that Tazawa has walked in a run in his major-league career.
|Red Sox notebook: John Farrell playing it safe with Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, and a Jonathan Herrera experiment||02.27.14 at 11:30 am ET|
Manager John Farrell announced Thursday before the team’s college doubleheader with Northeastern and Boston College that Shane Victorino is easing his way back into full baseball activities after his legs needed some extra rest after early work in camp.
“Shane continues to address some of the things we discovered in those legs,” Farrell said. “I want to be clear, his first two days of work coming in were extremely good. But then we saw some needs and we’re addressing those right now. He continues to throw and is doing some running and we’re just addressing the overall core strength.”
Farrell said there’s no firm schedule for when Victorino might be ready to get into spring games.
“Not yet. He’s going to be out there when he’s first ready,” Farrell said. “We know this from Shane, he’s going to want to get out there maybe before we might want to put him in games. There’s no reason to think that he’s not going to be ready for opening day. That’s not in our concern right now.”
In addition to surgery on his thumb in December, Victorino battled hamstring, groin and hip issues throughout last season. The Red Sox are trying to be proactive this spring to make sure those ailments don’t recur often.
Farrell also indicated Thursday that, despite the proclamation of Pedro Martinez on Wednesday, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara will be held out for about the first week of games in camp as they get their work in on the side and the back fields. The reason? Simple, both were used in many high leverage postseason situations for a full extra month of baseball last year.
“He and Junichi, they’ll get in games probably around the third-way through the game schedule mark,” Farrell said. “There’s nothing that says otherwise why we’re holding them back. They’re throwing the ball extremely well right now but we’re just trying to balance out the number of appearances last year, as well.”
As for Martinez saying Uehara, at 38, looks like he could already be pitching in regular season games, Farrell said there’s reasons for that.
“One they’re durable. Two, their work ethic in the offseason shows up when they first come into camp and the way they’re able to throw bullpens with shorter rest, so their recovery time has been great. But we still have to balance what they went through last year with a full month of additional pitching,” Farrell said.
|Red Sox face decisions on Andrew Bailey, Ryan Kalish and others||12.02.13 at 12:26 pm ET|
A midnight deadline looms for teams to tender contracts to the players on their 40-man roster who, with less than six years of big league service time, remain under team control. In the case of the Red Sox, that means five mostly straightforward decisions on arbitration-eligible players as well as some additional decision regarding players who are not yet arbitration-eligible but whose roster spots are in question at a time when the Red Sox will need to round out their major league roster with additional players.
First, the arbitration-eligible players: left-handed relievers Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller as well as right-hander Junichi Tazawa all project to make less than $2 million through salary arbitration, a modest sum given their abilities. Miller is expected to be healthy in 2013 after he underwent season-ending foot surgery for a torn ligament last July; his stuff was among the most dominant of any left-hander’s in baseball prior to the injury. Tazawa endured some ups and downs but still offers excellent bang for the buck as a late-innings right-hander who attacks the strike zone and gets swings and misses. Morales (2-2, 4.62 ERA in 20 games and 25 1/3 innings) had a disappointing year after his strong showing in 2012, but his upside (a left-hander with three swing-and-miss pitches) is such that he represents a worthwhile investment in his third year of arbitration-eligibility. First baseman/outfielder Mike Carp may assume a growing role with the Red Sox if Mike Napoli leaves in free agency; given his tremendous offensive production against right-handed pitchers in 2013, he’s a lock to get tendered. Newcomer Burke Badenhop will also be tendered. Read the rest of this entry »
|Buster Olney on M&M: Doug Fister ‘incredibly underrated’||10.16.13 at 1:45 pm ET|
ESPN’s Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox‘ win on Tuesday and the pitcher they’ll face in Game 4 of the ALCS.
The Red Sox face Doug Fister on Wednesday at Comerica Park, with a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Boston has struggled this series against Tigers starters, recording 35 strikeouts and only two earned runs on six hits over 21 innings.
‘I think Fister is incredibly underrated,’ Olney said. ‘But I’m sure the Red Sox are happy that it’s a different type of guy, because at the very least, unlike Sanchez, unlike Scherzer, unlike Verlander, he doesn’t go into it where you’re basically assuming you’re going to have 20 missed swings and you’re going to have a bunch of strikeouts. At least they have a better chance of putting the ball in play.’
The offensive issues don’t just exist in Boston. The Cardinals entered Tuesday’s NLDS Game 4 against the Dodgers batting just .134 in the first three games. Olney credits the domination in pitching partly to the cast of top-end starters employed by the four remaining teams, but also some of the scouting advances pitchers have gained in terms of determining the weaknesses of their opponents.
‘I think a classic case of that was last night, when Miguel Cabrera comes up to the plate and John Farrell chooses to have [Junichi] Tazawa pitch to him because he has the information that Cabrera is struggling on pitches on the outer half of the plate, and they just went back to it over and over and over and over again,’ Olney said.
Boston offset its lack of offense with a dominant pitching performance by John Lackey to earn the 1-0 Game 3 win. Lackey threw 6 2/3 shutout innings, allowing only four hits and zero walks while striking out eight. After Detroit rapped out a couple of base hits in the first inning, Lackey and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia changed their approach.
‘They went right to the concept of pitching backwards, rather than starting off with the fastball,’ Olney said. ‘You have to give credit to he and Saltalamacchia for changing so quickly after they saw what the Tigers were doing.”
|Craig Breslow’s Playoff Blog: The ALCS dogfight continues||at 11:32 am ET|
Red Sox left-hander Craig Breslow will contribute regularly to this blog throughout his team’s postseason run. In addition to his work on the mound, the eight-year big leaguer is also the founder and executive director of the Strike 3 Foundation, a charitable agency that heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for childhood cancer research. To learn more about the Strike 3 Foundation, and its new Play It Forward program, click here.
This game had the feel that it was going to be won or lost on one pitch. We probably weren’t going to string together three, four, five hits in a row to score a run.
Great starting pitching can do that. We showed signs of breaking out two games ago, but we ran into a dominant pitching performance from Justin Verlander. Still, as has been the trend all season, we grinded through at-bats, kept ourselves in the game and put ourselves within striking distance to where a good at-bat, a good swing from Mike Napoli was enough to position us to win.
John Lackey gave us an incredibly gutsy performance when we needed it. He’s such a competitor. You saw John Lackey earlier in his career where he had the same attitude, the same bulldog mentality where, if the game is on the line, I’d put all my confidence in the world behind him. You know he wants the ball, and you know he’s not going to give it up unless someone wrestles it out of his hands.
When John Farrell came out of the dugout to see Lackey on the mound with one out and a runner on first in the seventh inning and didn’t signal for me right away, I thought maybe he was going to see how Lack felt and give him a chance to get through it. Obviously John felt the move was to bring me in to match up. It didn’t work out in that at-bat when I walked Alex Avila, but it worked out in the next one when Omar Infante grounded into a fielder’s choice.
As much as Lack wanted to stay in the game, he was among the first to say, “Good job,” when I got back to the dugout. He’s the first guy to say that now we’re in the postseason, there’s no room for egos. There’s no room for me wanting to get the win or me wanting to get the last out. As long as we win, that’s all that we care about right now. When you have 25 guys who believe that, I think really good things can happen. The time for caring about who’s getting the outs is over.
Along those lines, I probably wasn’t as sharp today as I’ve been in other outings this postseason, but even though I walked a couple of batters, I made a couple of pitches when I needed to and got two outs. Still, it was unsettling to leave a runner on base for Junichi Tazawa, and perhaps even more so when Torii Hunter‘s single put runners on the corners with one out and Miguel Cabrera coming to the plate in the eighth. Read the rest of this entry »
|Game 3 Tigers, Red Sox clubhouse reaction||10.15.13 at 10:03 pm ET|
DETROIT — A smattering of postgame clubhouse reaction to the events that led to the Red Sox‘ 1-0 win over the Tigers in Game 3 of the ALDS:
ON THE SECOND-INNING POWER OUTAGE THAT DELAYED JOHN LACKEY’S RETURN TO THE MOUND BY 17 MINUTES:
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: “He definitely wasn’t happy with it. It always seems like his starts are something whether there’s a rain delay or something happens where there’s a delay. He always seem to get those. I think it was probably a good opportunity for him to slow things down. I think he was a little excited that first inning. It seemed like he was maybe overthrowing a little bit because he was leaving pitches over the plate that he normally doesn’t. So, it might’ve been a good chance for him to slow down and regroup.”
Torii Hunter: “Somebody not pay that bill?”
ON THE PERFORMANCE OF JOHN LACKEY:
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: “I’ve seen him go out there with 95, 96, crisper, like that game against Baltimore. That was the best I’ve seen his stuff. But as far as the situation tonight and what he was up against, yeah, I mean, that was huge. Big game.”
Jake Peavy, specifically on the fact that the talk surrounding this game all related to Tigers starter Justin Verlander: “We had a guy going tonight who has been there, done it and has a chance. There was just no talk. It was almost like there was no talk of we even having a starting pitcher going out there. Talking to John, it’s about the guys in this room. And he wants to be a world champion again. … We’d just been watching this stuff all day and it was like we didn’t even have a starting pitcher going today. I didn’t hear John Lackey’s name mentioned the last 48 hours. It just amazes me that somebody with the back of his baseball card, his resume, gets overlooked in a game like this. It has nothing to do with the way he pitched or anything else, other than he was ready for this stage and he delivered.”
David Ross: “Honestly guys, you guys may be shocked, but nobody in here is. That guy has been one of our most consistent pitchers all year. He had something to prove coming off an injury. He had some tough years when he was pitching hurt. I think he’s had that about him every time. He’s a passionate pitcher and every time expects good things. He was a No. 1.”
David Ortiz: “We’re having dinner last night and he sat down and didn’t say a word. He’s been like that since last night. I was like, damn, son. It’s unbelievable. His pitches were where he wanted. We all know that we’re facing a good team. that’s what we need.”
ON JUSTIN VERLANDER’S PERFORMANCE:
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: “We knew what we were up against. I don’t think anybody was thinking that we were going to walk all over this game and win. I think we all knew we were going to have to battle and grind, just like we did tonght. That’s what made Lack’s start even bigger was the fact that we knew we weren’t going to get a lot of runs. We had to pitch.”
|Building the bridge: Red Sox bullpen passes first big October test in Game 2 win||10.05.13 at 11:56 pm ET|
Koji Uehara electrified the Fenway Park crowd Saturday night.
Everything from his trot from the bullpen ‘ most of the 38,705 in attendance stood and clapped along with his entrance music ‘ to his nearly striking out the side on nine pitches to his eventually perfect inning (which required 11 pitches, all strikes) instilled a sense of prolonged excitement seen few other times this year en route to the 7-4 Game 2 win over the Rays.
‘Man, how loud was that?’ said David Ross, who caught all nine innings. ‘That was amazing. I just wanted to look up in the stands and take that all in for a minute. It was a lot of fun. This crowd, the first strikeout was loud, that second strikeout is as loud as I’ve ever heard it in a stadium. It was rocking. I don’t know how Koji could catch his emotions.’
But it was what preceded Uehara’s dominant, 11-pitch inning that may have been the most important feat for the Sox. Left-hander Craig Breslow and right-hander Junichi Tazawa, both making their playoff debuts, combined to pitch 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rays to move the Sox to within a win of their first ALCS berth since 2008.
‘Each guy that came to the mound did a great job,’ manager John Farrell said. ‘We were fresh. We were ready to go, obviously on the heels of [Jon] Lester‘s strong performance last night. ‘¦ They came in and made some big pitches at key moments.’
Each of those big pitches, however, came with big decisions on Farrell’s part. And as has become the norm in 2013, the skipper pressed all of the right buttons.
First came having Breslow relieve Lackey, who struggled with his command and exited after 5 1/3 innings of four-run ball. Breslow retired pinch-hitters Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez on four pitches to end the sixth.
The Red Sox started to tread dangerous waters in the seventh, which was arguably the biggest inning of the game with the meat of the Rays order due up and a pitcher not named Uehara on the mound.
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