State of the Bullpen After Day One
What happened yesterday, March 29th, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg Florida was a blatant disgrace. All of Red Sox Nation had been waiting for Opening Day since the final out was recorded in last year’s playoffs. The day had finally come, with new manager Alex Cora at the helm. And the bullpen let us down.
The Red Sox jumped out to an early lead, and had a 4-0 advantage going into the bottom of the 8th inning. The combination of Joe Kelly and Carson Smith got hammered, allowing six runs in the frame. The Rays went on to win the game, 6-4. It was a gut-wrenching defeat, especially on Opening Day.
There were a lot of people on social media already throwing in the towel, which is absolutely ridiculous if you ask me. There are still 161 games in the season, and one loss isn’t indicative of how the entire season will unfold.
One glaring issue that I do not see going away is the bullpen. I am not writing these guys off already, but it was the team’s biggest weakness going into the season, and showed itself yesterday. Here are two reasons why I think the bullpen will need some help by the trade deadline:
This sounds so cliché, but it is a reality in this Red Sox bullpen. Dave Dombrowski said on WEEI today that Carson Smith could be back in a month (shoulder injury). Joe Kelly has had injury history in previous seasons, and Carson Smith also just got back last season from arm surgery.
Those names listed above are arguably the three best relievers the Red Sox have besides Kimbrel. When the backbone of your bullpen has a chance to collapse at any moment during the season, it is a problem. I am not trying to say that this will for sure happen, but if it does, we could be relying on Matt Barnes to set up for Kimbrel. Ouch.
Lack of Versatility
This issue is even bigger than the injury history, which is the lack of versatility in the bullpen. What that means is that the Red Sox currently only have one lefty, who is a rookie named Bobby Poyner. Alex Cora said in the post-game interview that he did not want to use Poyner in such a big spot. Now THAT is a problem. We only have one lefty in the pen and our manager doesn’t even trust him to record one out against a lefty.
The Red Sox will not be able to make a playoff run with only one lefty in the bullpen, it will just not work. Especially if that lefty is a rookie. Not knocking on Bobby Poyner, I think he has a ton of potential here, but he is no Andrew Miller.
So What Do the Red Sox Do?
The Red Sox are in a sticky situation considering they do not want to go over the $237 million threshold. I think at the trade deadline Dave Dombrowski will try to use a young and controllable player to get a lefty for the pen. Look out for a potential Sam Travis or Blake Swihart trade.