The Red Sox bullpen may not be as attractive as some of the others in baseball. However, it certainly can be a good one. As of right now the bullpen looks like Kimbrel, Thornburg, Smith, Kelly, Barnes, and maybe Maddox. The first four names on that list are definite. Everyone else is a question mark.
The Lefty Situation
Cora has already stated that if a lefty pitcher does not make the team out of spring training, then they won’t need one. At least for right now. Robby Scott was the favorite to make the team before Spring Training started, but he hasn’t shown he deserves a spot so far. Cora’s talked highly of Bobby Poyner, a lefty who has pretty good numbers so far this spring, but it isn’t the biggest sample size. So, if there is no lefty that Cora can trust in the pen to start the year, it wouldn’t be detrimental. I totally agree with Alex Cora. It doesn’t matter if you’re a righty pitcher. If you can get lefties out you deserve a spot over an undeserving lefty in the bullpen.
The Bullpen’s up and Coming
Besides Craig Kimbrel, the reliever I’m most excited to watch is Carson Smith. He showed us tidbits of what he can do last year for the abbreviated time he was available. However, we haven’t really seen much of Smith yet. He has a nasty slider along with a good sinker and a fastball that sits around 92-94. Smith is someone you bring in when you need a double play late in the game. He would be great at giving up soft contact on the ground, or just watching guys freeze on his nasty hook.
Tyler Thornburg, who had thoracic outlet surgery in the offseason, will have to start the year on the DL. The exact time that he will return is up in the air. But it shouldn’t be too long before he makes his long awaited return. He is certainly another key piece and a great weapon to have in this bullpen.
Joe Kelly, aka Jim Buchanan, is a great guy to have not only in this pen, but on this team. I’ve mentioned before his goofy personality is exactly what this team needs. Something a winning team will need. Joe and his personality, along with his 100 mph fastball, nasty slider, and curve will be a big part of this team in 2018.
Last and certainly not least, is Craig Kimbrel, who pitched to a 1.43 ERA, a 1.41 FIP, and struck out about half the hitters he faced last year. So yeah, this dude is not bad. And let me just mention someone else who is awesome. Kimbrel was out of Fort Myers for three weeks because his daughter Lydia, who was born with a heart defect and only a few months old, had to get her second heart procedure done in Boston. Kimbrel returned to Spring Training because his daughter had the surgery and is doing great.
So Kimbrel, who has been working out at Fenway for a while now is back with the team at camp and will be ready for Opening Day, which is great news. But more importantly, his daughter is alright. Let’s just say that’s one tough girl, and she definitely got part of that from Craig, no doubt. Lydia Strong.
All in all, this Red Sox bullpen may not necessarily jump out as the best. But it is certainly not a bullpen anyone should take lightly. With these scary arms to go along with Cora’s managing and the non-closer philosophy, this bullpen can definitely be a strength for this 2018 Red Sox team.
Cover image courtesy of USA Today.