By: Don Porcaro
The Boston Red Sox have gone through a full season and still some pre-season questions remain. Will Chris Sale shake his September struggles? Will Eduardo Rodriguez mold into a solid playoff pitcher? Where does David Price fit in on this team? Those questions are all still unanswered. Along with those questions, Doug Fister is has made a case for consideration for a playoff start. Between that and the bullpen, many Sox fans have wondered who goes where in the playoffs.
Let’s start with the rotation.
Game 1: Chris Sale
Despite the history of September struggles, no one really doubted Sale getting the first start. With over 300 strikeouts and an ERA that has stayed under 3.00 the whole year, Sale is the number one guy. Personally, I have no doubt Chris Sale will be fine for the playoffs. Whether it is arm fatigue or just a mere coincidence Sale struggles in the late games of the year, it is certainly not his attitude. Sale has shown time and time again he is more competitive than most. Certainly more competitive than the Sox other big name pitcher, David Price.
Game 2: Drew Pomeranz
This one certainly came as a surprise. Since May, Pomeranz has become not only one of the best pitchers in Boston, but one of the best pitchers in the league. He has finally become the pitcher that Boston traded for last July. After being solid out of the Bullpen, Pomeranz has shown he can also pitch well in the playoffs. He has found his stride at the right time and Sox fans should be confident with Drew on the mound.
Game 3: Rick Porcello
This one was tough. I have never been all too high on Porcello even after his Cy Young season last year. He is someone that won’t necessarily explode on the team, but he also is not a dominant pitcher. On most nights, he will give you 5 or 6 innings pitched allowing 2 or 3 runs. Not great, but very serviceable for a third starter with a solid bullpen. Porcello also does have prior playoff experience which will help him ease into things.
Game 4: Eduardo Rodriguez
Finally for the fourth and final playoff spot, this one goes to Rodriguez. All around, E-Rod is a better pitcher than Fister, although both can be inconsistent. Fister has the experience, Rodriguez has put together a good string of starts lately. The one thing that does kill Rodriguez is the long ball. If he can keep himself from making those few bad mistakes, he will perform well. Similar to Porcello, he doesn't really blow up. He may have bad outings, but nothing compared to the bad starts Fister has had. Game 4 goes to E-Rod.
So we now have the starters, but the bullpen is just as unpredictable. John Farrell has switched just about everyone in the pen around at least once or twice, except for Craig Kimbrel. It is anyone’s best guess who Farrell will throw out during any situation besides a ninth inning save, but here’s what I would assume would be the best roles.
Long Relief: David Price
This is the perfect role for David Price out of the bullpen. Every starter in the rotation has been known to occasionally blow up. Getting a starter out early to possibly save the game will be much easier to do when you have a former Cy Young award winner coming out next. Price will be able to keep a game in check and give the Sox a chance even if they do find themselves down early. As for Price, there will be no pressure on him to hold a lead or save a game. Some say the pressure in the playoffs gets to Price, but how much pressure is there when you enter a game down 3-4 runs?
7th inning man: Brandon Workman
This may be the biggest positive surprise of the season for Boston. Coming off of Tommy John, Workman has been excellent out of the pen. Posting a 2.41 ERA, he has looked like the pitcher many expected him to be years ago before he went down with arm issues. Giving him a set role as the 7th inning guy will not mess up any momentum he has going for him. Being on the 2013 World Series team, Workman also has valuable experience in the post-season.
8th inning man: Addison Reed
This is the guy the Red Sox brought in to be the 8th inning man. Farrell has misused an important piece, very reminiscent of Brad Ziegler last year. My argument is similar to the one I had last year that Price should have started game 1. If you give up money or assets to bring a guy in to do a job, you let him follow through with it even if there is someone else (Carson Smith) who may be right behind.
Situational: Robby Scott, Carson Smith, Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly
Carrying only one situational lefty in the pen is dangerous, but the Sox have been doing it all season. Robby Scott will continue to be that left handed pitcher that faces left handed batters in big time situations. Joe Kelly could easily be used when the Sox are in a jam and in need of a strikeout. I love Carson Smith for a 7th or 8th inning replacement if someone gets hit around, but he can also be a situationally pitcher against righties with his unorthodox delivery. Matt Barnes can be used at home with a cushion of at least 3 runs, and Hembree will be able to eat innings if they score is lopsided either way.
9th inning: Craig Kimbrel
The most obvious one is saved for last. Craig Kimbrel has had one of the best years of his life and has continuously shined throughout the regular season. As long as Farrell uses him in strictly save situations, he shouldn't run into any issues. If the Sox make it deep into the playoffs, expect Kimbrel to play a big part. With Boston’s track record this year of being in so many close games, expect Kimbrel to be a workhorse.
(Photo: Over the Monster)