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3 possible solutions for a Red Sox bullpen in shambles after another demoralizing loss 08.19.16 at 11:13 am ET
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Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon

The Red Sox had all the pieces in order for a rousing victory on Thursday afternoon in Detroit, but as has so often been the case over the last month, the bullpen wouldn’t let it happen.

Entrusted with a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning, right-hander Junichi Tazawa once again imploded, opening manager John Farrell to a massive second guess about why he didn’t go to Brad Ziegler instead. But the reality is Ziegler represented a sub-optimal option in that situation as well, leaving the Red Sox in a precarious position — who pitches the eighth inning?

With former closer Koji Uehara sidelined by a pectoral injury and Tazawa scuffling horribly, it’s unclear whom the Red Sox should pair with right-hander Matt Barnes. Here are three options, none of them necessarily great, but all worth considering in light of recent crushing losses to the Yankees (twice) and Tigers, all undone in the late innings.

1. Jonathan Papelbon

The longer Papelbon remains unsigned, the fairer it is to wonder if he’ll sign at all. Perhaps he sits out the rest of the season and tries to find a job over the winter. Or perhaps he’s just taking a couple of extra days to assess his options. In any event, Farrell is on record that he’d like to see Papelbon in Boston, and even if his fastball (91.7 mph) isn’t what it once was, he knows how to pitch in the late innings. He lost his job in Washington for a reason (4.37 ERA), so he’s no savior, but he’d give the Red Sox some experience and swagger.

2. Clay Buchholz

This is a tough one, because Buchholz just delivered his best start of the season (6 IP, 1 ER) with nothing to show for it, and uncertainty over both Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez means he’s probably needed in the rotation. But with Buchholz finding his groove pitching exclusively from the stretch, he’d clearly be an upgrade on Tazawa and probably even Ziegler, since he can face lefties and righties when he’s on his game. Jerking him back and forth between the bullpen and rotation isn’t a recipe for success, and he’s no longer a strikeout pitcher (5.5/9 IP), but with all due respect to Heath Hembree, Buchholz is the best option on the roster. “I’ll do whatever they want me to do,” Buchholz said. “That’s what I get paid to do.”

3. Joe Kelly

The Red Sox made the long overdue move of sending Kelly to the bullpen after he posted an 8.46 ERA in six starts. He has since compiled a 1.64 ERA with 16 strikeouts and three walks in 11 innings of relief at Triple-A Pawtucket. Kelly has the stuff for the late innings, with a fastball that has reached 100 mph. The Red Sox sent him to the minors to pitch exclusively from the stretch and eliminate some of the moving parts in his delivery. They also wanted him to build endurance, because he has already spent time on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. With Kelly pitching well in Pawtucket, however, his time may be coming sooner than later. He pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings on Thursday, striking out two.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, John Farrell, Jonathan Papelbon
Closing Time: Bullpen implosion turns Red Sox comeback into nightmare loss to Tigers 08.18.16 at 4:33 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell argues with home plate upm Scott Barry on Thursday. (Rick Osentoski/(USA Today Sports)

Red Sox manager John Farrell argues with home plate upm Scott Barry on Thursday. (Rick Osentoski/(USA Today Sports)

For an August 18th game against two non-division teams, so many question marks surrounded Thursday’s matinee vs. the Tigers. How would the Red Sox perform on short rest? Why wouldn’t the Tigers move the start time? Would Clay Buchholz implode again?

It turns out we should’ve been asking a different question: Will the bullpen show up?

The answer to that one was unfortunately no, and the Red Sox suffered one of their toughest losses of the season as a result, blowing a 3-1 lead in the eighth en route to a 4-3 loss.

This one falls largely on reliever Junichi Tazawa, who was summoned to protect a 3-1 lead, but allowed three hits without retiring a batter. He left with runners on the corners and no outs and sidearmer Brad Ziegler nearly escaped with the game still tied before walking in the go-ahead run.

The latest bullpen collapse ruined an otherwise inspiring effort. Fresh off the bereavement list, first baseman Hanley Ramirez stroked the go-ahead single in the eighth inning to back Clay Buchholz’s gutsiest outing of the season.

Playing with a lineup that saw Aaron Hill hitting first for just the 20th time in his career, Sandy Leon as the designated hitter, and Deven Marrero playing second base, the Red Sox nevertheless appeared headed for their seventh straight win before the bullpen gave it away.

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Read More: John Farrell, junichi tazawa, Red Sox, Red Sox Bullpen
Koji Uehara receives PRP injection, which suggests his return won’t be soon 07.22.16 at 5:03 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

If you were expected Koji Uehara to return from the disabled list after the 15 days, think again.

Manager John Farrell said the reliever received a PRP injection on Friday, which suggests he will be out an extended period of time. Uehara was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday with a right pectoral strain.

“That is going to require a little bit of down time to recover from that,” Farrell said. “Still it doesn’t lend to a return date or really to put a ball back in his hand as of yet. That’s really the most update I can give you.”

While nothing is official, Sept. 1 seems like a good general target date for his return.

The Red Sox will get another reliever back Friday in Junichi Tazawa, who is returning from shoulder impingement. Farrell said there are no physical restrictions for him, but as they do with all relievers, the team will monitor his work load.

“We’ll pick a spot. If Eddie [Rodriguez] goes deep in the game — again, I think it’s all going to be game dependent,” he said. “The leverage to it, the stress to it — put it this way, going into tonight there is no physical limitations. That will be the guide.”

Farrell added he would like to stay away from Matt Barnes again Friday night after he went three innings on Wednesday.

Read More: junichi tazawa, Koji Uehara,
Junichi Tazawa activated to active roster, Noe Ramirez optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket at 3:55 pm ET
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Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa

As expected, reliever Junichi Tazawa is back on the active 25-man roster as he was activated prior to Friday’s game with the Twins. As the corresponding move, Noe Ramirez was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Tazawa was on the disabled list with shoulder impingement since July 14, retroactive to July 4. He has made 35 relief appearances for the Red Sox this season, going 1-1 with a 3.62 ERA and 37 strikeouts against only eight walks. Opponents are hitting just .215 this season.

Ramirez didn’t appear in a game during his few days with the club. The right-hander has made 11 relief appearances over seven stints with the Red Sox this season, posting no record and a 6.55 ERA with 11 strikeouts. He has has also made 18 appearances with Pawtucket this year, earning three saves and going 1-3 with a 2.36 ERA and 25 strikeouts compared to eight walks.

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

Read More: junichi tazawa, noe ramirez,
Why Joe Kelly wasn’t called up following Craig Kimbrel injury 07.20.16 at 5:09 pm ET
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Joe Kelly is getting closer to a return to the Red Sox, but it isn't today. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Joe Kelly is getting closer to a return to the Red Sox, but it isn’t today. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Red Sox are dealing with another injury to their bullpen.

On Wednesday, Koji Uehara was placed on the 15-day disabled listed with a right pectoral strain and right-hander Noe Ramirez was recalled for the sixth time this season.

Many wondered why it wasn’t Joe Kelly given his recent transition to the bullpen and throwing the ball well with Triple-A Pawtucket.

“He was (considered, but with [Junichi Tazawa], everything pointing to him being active for Friday, and while Joe is getting some quality work in that relief role, we didn’t want this to be a one or two day situation for him and be returned back to Pawtucket so that’s where we are with Joe,” manager John Farrell said. “Clearly, he’s throwing the ball well and without a specific date, that date whatever that is is getting closer.”

Kelly is currently with Pawtucket and hasn’t allowed a run in three innings over two appearances while striking out six. Since making the transition to the bullpen, the right-hander has allowed two runs over seven innings of work between Lowell and Pawtucket.

“There’s not a check list per se,” Farrell said. “The one thing he is doing is pitching exclusively out of the stretch. Felt like that has been able to minimize any additional movement in his delivery. He’s honed that in. The relief work that he’s done has been quality. Whether or not we go back-to-back is to be determined at this point. I wouldn’t say that it’s a must.”

Uehara received an MRI on his shoulder Wednesday afternoon, but the results were not known prior to the game.

“To suggest any type of timeframe right now, it’s still a little too early for that,” Farrell said. ”
“Unfortunately, we’re going to be without Koji.”

In the meantime, Farrell said Brad Ziegler would take over as closer, although he did say if there was a string of left-handers, that could change things.

As for closer Craig Kimbrel, who is on the disabled list after needing surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, he threw for the first time since the injury on Wednesday off flat ground.

“I don’t think there’s been anything to change the initial timeframe that’s been established,” Farrell said. “We’re hopeful it is on the shorter end of that. The check up and the way he’s going through rehab has been very encouraging.”

The initial timetable was 3-6 weeks from the injury, which was suffered July 11, so the team is likely hopeful he can return to the mound in early August as a best-case scenario.

Read More: Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, junichi tazawa,
Red Sox notes: Blake Swihart, Junichi Tazawa, Chris Young injury updates 07.19.16 at 5:10 pm ET
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Blake Swihart

Blake Swihart

Although the Red Sox are fairly healthy in terms of their core players, some of their role players are still working their way back from injuries.

Left fielder Blake Swihart continues to go through full baseball activities after suffering a severe ankle sprain back on June 4. Manager John Farrell said there is no set timetable on a rehab assignment, but the fact that he’s going through full baseball activities should mean that will be coming soon

Swihart was batting .258 in 19 major league games this season. Farrell said over the weekend it’s unclear if he will catch at all the rest of the season.

He also added utility infielder Josh Rutledge is in a similar spot, as he rehabs from a knee injury, but he might be delayed in coming back a bit because of being on the 60-day disabled list and when he’s eligible to come off of that.

Reliever Junichi Tazawa (shoulder) could return to the Red Sox roster by Friday, as he was placed on the disabled list (retroactive to July 4) last Thursday. The right-hander threw a simulated game on Tuesday and was able to throw all of his pitches.

The news isn’t as good for left fielder Chris Young as he hasn’t yet begun ground-based running as he works his way back from a groin strain, which saw him go on the disabled list on June 24.

Farrell acknowledged the MRI showed a bit more than a Grade 1 strain. He added the team has “to be careful” with his rehab.

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

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Read More: blake swihart, Chris Young, Joe Kelly, junichi tazawa
Red Sox place Junichi Tazawa (shoulder) on 15-day disabled list, recall RHP William Cuevas 07.14.16 at 7:16 pm ET
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Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa needs to go on the disabled list after all.

On Thursday the Red Sox placed the reliever on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder impingement retroactive to July 4. To fill his spot on the 25-man roster, right-handed pitcher William Cuevas was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket.

Tazawa was unavailable for much of the last homestand. The right-hander has made 35 relief appearances for the Red Sox this season, going 1-1 with a 3.62 ERA and 37 strikeouts against only eight walks. Opponents have batted .215 against him.

“No, our doctors tell me the impingement is settling down,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said on a conference call. “He actually threw up to 120 feet today. The way we looked at it at this point was, could we have pushed him maybe to be ready even on Sunday? Perhaps. But we already had 10 days to backdate him, so we don’t want to push it at all. We have still a long way to go ahead of us. The doctors felt very encouraged and trainers very encouraged, as did Taz, by his progress at this point. But we figured, rather than rush him back, he misses Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we’re hopeful he’s going to be back and think he’ll be back by the homestand, and he’s really eligible to come off on Tuesday for our home game. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but there is a possibility he’ll be ready to go there. We feel very comfortable, and again, we didn’t want to rush and felt this was the best thing to do.”

Cuevas has made three relief appearances for the Red Sox over a pair of major league stints this season. He’s allowed two runs in five innings pitched. With Tazawa’s DL stint retroactive to July 4, they may have Cuevas be a long relief man if Tazawa can return after 15 days.

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

Read More: junichi tazawa, william cuevas,
Red Sox notes: Eduardo Rodriguez to start Friday in New York; Clay Buchholz back in starting rotation 07.10.16 at 12:37 pm ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez will start for the Red Sox Friday night in New York. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Eduardo Rodriguez will start for the Red Sox Friday night in New York. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

The Red Sox will get two starting pitchers back in their rotation coming out of the All-Star break — Eduardo Rodriguez and Clay Buchholz.

Rodriguez will start Friday night in New York, as he’s appeared in two games with the PawSox since being sent back down in late June. He threw seven shutout inning on July 3, then allowed two runs over three innings in a rain-shortened outing Friday night.

“There’s been some adjustments made to his hand position,” manager John Farrell said. “It was a seven-inning and a rain-shortened three inning outing in which he’s pitched down there. The first inning in his second start — took him an inning to get into things, but the seven innings prior was sharp, was powerful. I think he’s by all reports and watching video of him looks like he’s gaining some comfort with the hand position that has been widely talked about. Required needed adjustments have been made.”

It also appears Buchholz will go back in the rotation, but the Red Sox won’t need a fifth starter until July 23. He hasn’t appeared in a game since July 2.

“Right now, we’ll work to get Clay back in there at some point,” Farrell said. “Where that slots in after the New York series remains to be worked through, but that’s the tentative plan right now.”

After Rodriguez in New York, Steven Wright will start Saturday and David Price on Sunday. Farrell said he did this to get both Rick Porcello and David Price a few extra days off.

“Yeah, we tried to build in as much as we could for everybody,” he said. “This will give David a couple extra days pitching on Sunday, but I think with Rick everything is pointing to a few extra days is what he needs.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

— Both Brock Holt (sprained ankle) and Junichi Tazawa (shoulder) are unavailable Sunday, but Farrell is hopeful they will be available Friday and he doesn’t expect either to go on the disabled list.

“Both are unavailable today,” Farrell said. “We don’t anticipate either situation, a DL situation. The four days is coming at a good time for a number of guys.”

Holt sprained his ankle after jamming it sliding into second base on Friday night, but is getting better by the day.

“Getting treatment,” Farrell said “Walking around a little bit more. The increase is a little bit more each day. Those guys are going to remain here over the break to continue to get treatment. Hopefully things are pointing to Friday for Brock and [Tazawa].”

Read More: Brock Holt, Clay Buchholz, eduardo rodriguez, junichi tazawa
Red Sox notes: Injury updates on Brock Holt, Hanley Ramirez, Junichi Tazawa 07.09.16 at 2:16 pm ET
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The Red Sox did get some good news on Brock Holt as his ankle injury doesn't appear to be serious. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Red Sox did get some good news on Brock Holt as his ankle injury doesn’t appear to be serious. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

There’s no question, the Red Sox are working through some injuries right now, but for most, the news is better than it is for Craig Kimbrel.

Brock Holt suffered a sprained ankle when he jammed his foot sliding into second base Friday night. He left the game and was in a walking boot afterwards, but the news was better on Saturday.

“Day-to-day,” manager John Farrell said. “He came in today better than we anticipated based on what took place on the field. He’s walking around a little bit more normally. I would doubt he’s going to be available in these two games before the break, but not to the point where we need to put him on the disabled list. The four days over the All-Star break are going to be good for a number of guys with these temporary types of situations physically. Brock is one of them.”

Holt has proven to be an integral part to the Red Sox this season as the team is 25-10 in games he starts this season.

Also leaving the game Friday night’s game was first baseman Hanley Ramirez after fouling a pitch off his leg. He was still limping on Saturday and thus not in the starting lineup, but Farrell said he would be available to pinch-hit.

Utility player Michael Martinez, who was acquired from the Indians on Friday is with the team and will be active for Saturday’s game. Marco Hernandez was sent back down to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room on the roster.

Also, added to the roster is Noe Ramirez. He will take the place of Kimbrel, but once Brad Ziegler arrives, it’s likely Ramirez goes back to Triple-A on Sunday.

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

— Junichi Tazawa is unavailable again on Saturday, but the Red Sox are hoping it isn’t a long-term thing.

“Based on the exam by our medical team, feel like yes, there is time needed,” Farrell said. “He’s going through some treatment. They haven’t indicated there’s the need for a MRI at this point. If that would change, we would certainly do that. We’re not at that point yet.”

— Brandon Workman, who left Friday’s rehab outing in Lowell, suffered a left oblique strain as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery.

“An unfortunate temporary injury on his part,” Farrell said.

Read More: Brock Holt, hanley ramirez, junichi tazawa,
How can Red Sox fix struggling bullpen internally? 06.23.16 at 11:50 pm ET
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Heath Hembree could see himself in more high leverage situations coming up. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Heath Hembree could see himself in more high leverage situations coming up. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

If this week’s series against the White Sox said anything, it’s that the Red Sox cannot count on Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara as much as once thought.

On Wednesday night, Uehara entered with the Red Sox leading 6-4 in the eighth inning and allowed two home runs to depart with the Red Sox trailing 7-6. Then in the seventh inning on Thursday, Tazawa entered with the Red Sox leading 5-4 and allowed a three-run home run to Jose Abreu and departed with the Red Sox trailing 7-5.

With Carson Smith out for the season with Tommy John surgery, some expected one of the two to slide into the set up role, but it doesn’t seem like that will be the case. Uehara has a 4.78 ERA in 26 1/3 innings, while Tazawa has a 3.18 ERA in 28 1/3 innings.

The way the current starting rotation is constructed, they cannot have the bullpen blowing many leads and need to find dependable relievers to lead into closer Craig Kimbrel.

Right-hander Heath Hembree took a step in the right direction in doing that on Thursday as he tossed a scoreless eighth inning to keep the Red Sox within striking distance and was able to get Adam Eaton out with the bases loaded to end the frame.

“Quality strikes in a key moment — and against a good hitter,” manager John Farrell said. “That might be a breakthrough moment for Heath. Bases loaded, really no other place to go, threw some pitches in some different locations than [other times] against lefties.”

The right-hander has been dominant against righties, as they were batting just .127 against him going into the day, but lefties were crushing him batting .475. The hope is Thursday will help build some momentum into more high leverage situations.

Another option could be down the road on I-95 in Pawtucket in hard-throwing right-hander Pat Light.

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Read More: heath hembree, junichi tazawa, Koji Uehara, pat light
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