By: Alex Reimold
In the offseason, the Red Sox bullpen appeared to be a powerhouse including the addition of Tyler Thornburg and return of Carson Smith. However, as the season neared fans experienced a form of sadness in that Carson Smith would not return by the start of season and Tyler Thornburg was injured due to a new workout program. This melancholy feeling lead to the uncertainty about the bullpen this year. As this year has passed along so far, the fab of the bullpen has flew under the radar.
As a bullpen pitcher, you’re either liked or loved. The first guy I’d like to talk about is Fernando Abad, who my podcasting co-host Jake Perda despises. After a rough start to the season, Abad has really picked it up and has signified himself as the lefty matchup guy. In the Cubs series, he perhaps pitched the best performance he’s had in Boston. He came into the game with runners in scoring position with one out, facing Szczur and Schwarber. Abad got out of the inning allowing no runs and striking out each slugger, and essentially saved the game for the Sox. Recent outing like this are the reason why I think that things are beginning to turn around for Fernando Abad.
Another bullpen pitcher off to a great start is Heath Hembree. So far, Hembree is boasting a 1.23 ERA and leading the AL in holds (7). The key this year for Hembree has been location and keeping the ball down, and it seems that in every situation that the Sox need a shutdown, Hembree gets the ball.
Lastly, the X-factor this year is Craig Kimbrel. He’s off to a great start with AL leading 10 saves in 11 opportunities with a 1.35 ERA. Kimbrel flashes a fastball in the upper 90s and often touching 100, and he blends the fastball with an unhittable slider in the upper 80s. Not to mention, he barely even makes the defense work as he leads all closers with 24 K’s. If he can keep this up, Kimbrel is towards a historic year.
For the Sox to have a chance this year, the bullpen needs to continue to thrive. As a whole, the bullpen currently flashes a 2.21 ERA with a total of 19 holds. The Sox also rank second in the MLB in terms of bullpen ERA. Looking at the big picture, as we see the bats beginning to pick up a little bit, the starting rotation is the biggest liability. If the Sox want to contend this year, the rotation needs to follow the example of Chris Sale and pick it up.
Photo: (Boston Globe)