Fernando Abad: What to Expect Moving Forward

News came at the end of February that Fernando Abad would be competing for his home country in the World Baseball Classic. Abad will miss time with the Red Sox this spring training to pitch for the Dominican Republic. Fans around Red Sox Nation are wondering what this means for the 31 year-old left-hander, as well as the future of the team’s bullpen.

Fernando Abad is set to make $2,000,000 this Fernando Abadseason, but that money is not guaranteed. He was traded by the Minnesota Twins to the Sox in 2016 at the non-waiver trade deadline, and was immediately thrown into the fire by Sox manager John Farrell. In 18 appearances with the team, Abad was simply a-bad pitcher. In 12 and 2/3 innings, he recorded a 6.39 ERA and a WHIP of 1.66. The Red Sox kept Fernando Abad off of the ALDS roster.

Fernando Abad Moving Forward

The Dominican team has had the pleasure of using Abad during the tournament, but the Sox have decisions to make. Abad is a guy who is still trying to win a spot in the Boston bullpen. He was unable to prove his worth last year, and isn’t doing himself any favors choosing to participate in the WBC. This event is a huge deal in other countries, but for Abad, is it really worth not having a big-league job this season?

The Red Sox bullpen has vastly improved this off-season. We traded for a legitimate set-up man in Tyler Thornburg. Also, Carson Smith will be back from his Tommy-John surgery. Joe Kelly emerged as a go-to guy out of the pen in the playoffs last year. The Matt Barnes/Robbie Ross duo is a solid right/lefty combo that John Farrell can go to late in the game. Meanwhile, Craig Kimbrel is still as effective as Craig Kimbrel will ever be. Where does this leave Abad?

Fernando Abad can enjoy his time in the World Baseball Classic, as I am sure he will. There simply isn’t enough room for Abad in our bullpen as long as everyone stays healthy. After a dismal performance last year and poor decision-making now, he has most likely outlasted his stay in Boston.

Eduardo Rodriguez is Finally Back

Starting pitcher, Eduardo Rodriguez will finally make his long awaited return to the major league club tonight against his former organization, the Baltimore Orioles. Rodriguez had been injured with a knee injury and following a setback, Rodriguez ended up making five starts at Pawtucket.

Rodriguez pitched very strong in his last start at Pawtucket, throwing seven innings of oneEduardo Rodriguez run ball and striking out seven. Following this start, Rodriguez’s had a 3.54 ERA in 28 innings pitched at Pawtucket, only striking out 17 in those innings. The lack of strikeouts can be seen as a concern as Rodriguez has been seen as a guy with strong strikeout potential but has yet to flash that at the big league level. Although, with Buchholz having struggled greatly in the rotation and coming off a shaky start, the timing was perfect for Rodriguez to replace him in the starting rotation.

Last season Rodriguez was the ace of the Sox staff. To go along with his 3.85 ERA, his command at a young age was very impressive. Rodriguez does not seem to get phased by tough situations in a game. He walked just 37 batters in 121.2 innings pitched. As he approaches his second year at the major league level, expect Rodriguez to improve on these numbers.

Rodriguez will eventually become a strong strikeout pitcher and president of baseball operations for the Red Sox, Dave Dombrowski, believes Rodriguez can be an ace at the major league level. Rodriguez’s strong three pitch make-up featuring his fastball, slider and changeup give him three impressive pitches to bring at major league hitters. To improve upon his second season, new ace and veteran pitcher, David Price, can be of great help to propelling Rodriguez to that next level. One pitch that Price features and Rodriguez doesn’t is the cut fastball. If Rodriguez can learn this pitch from Price and begin to add it to his repertoire, he could become a very lethal starting pitcher.

Tonight is an exciting night for Sox fans and Rodriguez in general. With Buchholz to the bullpen and Rodriguez back, the Sox have a more reliable option on the mound even if he doesn’t improve but stays on track with last year’s numbers.

Matt Barnes Must Replace Carson Smith

With Carson Smith undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox lose a major piece to their bullpen this season. Smith, acquired in the off season, was expected to be a lock down option out of the bullpen, especially against elite right handed bats. With Smith done for the year, the Sox need somebody to step up as a replacement. Converted reliever Matt Barnes has looked strong this season and will be crucial to replacing Smith.

Barnes was once highly touted as a minor league starting pitcher. He struggled as aMatt Barnes starting pitcher at the major league level, resulting in the transition to the bullpen. Barnes seems to finally be adjusting to the new role after looking shaky and out of place last season. Barnes has pitched very well this season with a 2.82 ERA and is throwing his fastball around 70% of the time, sitting around a strong 96 mph for the most part.

Is Matt Barnes As Good As Carson Smith?

While Barnes has been pitching very well this year, he is not as good as Carson Smith, mainly due to Smith’s stronger off speed pitches. Smith also has more pitches at his disposal to keep hitters guessing. Barnes relies primarily on his curve ball as his secondary pitch. The bullpen role is best for Barnes as he is a guy who can come in for an inning and use his big time arm, throwing heat. If Barnes has his curve ball working and improves his third pitch, the change-up, he could eventually turn into an elite bullpen arm.

Losing Smith was a devastating blow to the Sox. Many fans did not get to know who Carson Smith was and should know that he was an elite arm out of the pen. Smith had 92 strikeouts in 70 innings last season with a 2.31 ERA for the Seattle Mariners. If Barnes can come near those numbers, the Sox will be very pleased. So far, Barnes looks like he is a changed pitcher and is relishing fewer innings pitched and letting loose with his heater.

Carson Smith Undergoes Tommy John Surgery

Red Sox reliever Carson Smith underwent Tommy John Surgery on Tuesday, and will not return during the 2016 season. This could be a big blow for Boston, which loses a key bullpen arm just as the season is about to really heat up, and will now have to explore other options for the late innings.

Carson Smith

Smith, a promising 26-year old hurler, was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in the Wade Miley trade last December. He struck out 92 batters in 70 inning last season, and pitched to a 2.31 ERA. The Red Sox were keen to fortify an inconsistent bullpen, and Carson Smith was deemed a major upgrade. In an ideal world, he was slated to join Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa in setting up games for Craig Kimbrel, giving Boston a formidable bullpen to compete with any other in baseball.

Those plans were jeopardized in spring training, when Smith endured tightness in his right forearm. He was diagnosed with a muscle strain, but recovered to join the Red Sox in May. However, after just three appearances, doctors determined that Carson required Tommy John Surgery, which could put him out of action for up to eighteen months.

Options to replace Carson Smith

Obviously, the Red Sox haven’t felt the full benefit of Carson Smith this season, but his absence still creates a headache for Dave Dombrowski. The President of Baseball Operations has already said that the Red Sox are in no hurry to search for solutions on the trade market, given the strong performances from guys like Heath Hembree, Tommy Layne and Robbie Ross. Indeed, the Red Sox currently rank seventh in bullpen ERA throughout Major League Baseball, so the current crop has done a very solid job.

However, Carson Smith figured to be a major contributor throughout the summer and down the stretch. He had overpowering stuff and the potential to be another premier arm shutting down games for Boston in the late innings. Now, that weapon has been removed, at least for 2016, and with all due respect, nobody in the current bullpen really stands out as a serious candidate to take on a more important setup role. The Sox are still in good shape with Tazawa and Kimbrel, but Uehara is 41-years old and his 2016 statistics show considerable decline compared to his career averages.

Therefore, as we move towards the trade deadline, expect the Red Sox to be active in the market for relief help. They’re not totally desperate for another arm, which should leave plenty of room in negotiations and hopefully enable Dombrowski to acquire a setup man at a fair price. While they never gain much attention, trades for relievers are very popular in mid-season, and there should be no shortage of options a month or two from now. Relievers are highly expendable, especially for non-contending teams, so the Red Sox may be in a strong bargaining position.

This news sucks for Carson Smith, and we wish him a speedy recovery. It would have been great to see him add length to the Red Sox bullpen this summer and potentially through the playoffs. Yet, while his absence is less than ideal in the short-term, Dombrowski shouldn’t have a problem finding a replacement, which will be required as Boston eyes a serious run at October.

The Joe Kelly Experiment Has To End

The Joe Kelly Experiment has to end, and it has to end now. In Kelly’s first start of 2016 he went 3.3 innings while giving up 7 hits, 7 runs (all earned), issued 3 walks, struck out 4, and gave up a monster grand slam to the 2015 MVP, Josh Donaldson. Not to mention almost beheading Kevin Pillar with a 97 mph fastball that luckily only hit the brim of his batting helmet, which Pillar was then able to bounce back up after being knocked to the ground.

Control issues have been hampering him since arriving in Boston. For a guy who can hit triple digits with his fastball well, let’s just say it doesn’t end well. Joe Kelly ExperimentSo it begs the question, why is he still in the rotation? Why is Farrell so intrigued to keep working on what I believe is a failed project. After spending some time down in Triple A last year, Kelly came back up to Boston and showed signs of major improvement. 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA. But it took a trip down to the minors for him to “fix” whatever issues he was having and now we’re to believe he’s figured it all out? Nope, not buying that one bit.

The fact of the matter is this, the 2016 Red Sox pitching rotation is already looking like the teams biggest downfall. Had it not been for some timely offense and relatively strong bullpen in the most recent game, who knows what the outcome would’ve been. But I do know this—and I hope Farrell finally grows a pair and see’s—Joe Kelly should not be in this rotation whatsoever.

If you want to throw him in the bullpen, great! I’m all for it. The more power arms there the better. But if you’re going to keep him in the rotation expect similar results that we not only saw in the last game, but that we’ve seen since he’s arrived in Boston.

They say in baseball a change of scenery is sometimes all that is needed for a player. Well, I think it’s finally getting to that point for Joe Kelly and I hope it happens sooner rather than later because the Joe Kelly Experiment has finally run its course.

Brandon Workman Placed On DL

Brandon Workman

The plan for Brandon Workman this off-season was to focus on just relieving for the first time in his career. After being a starter for much of his time in the minor leagues, the Red Sox with many young starters coming up through the system felt relieving is the best fit for Workman, this time around. After struggling last season with velocity, early this spring his velocity was up a tick with shorter outings.

Before even throwing an official pitch this season Workman was diagnosed with a right elbow strain and was placed on the disabled list Saturday. Not exactly how Workman and the Red Sox pictured his season starting. Brandon WorkmanThe minor leagues have a disabled list of seven days, but it has not been announced how long Workman is expected to be out. Workman was one of the last cuts in a battle for the last two bullpen spots that eventually went to Robbie Ross Jr. and Tommy Layne, one of which will likely be sent to Pawtucket on Monday, with Koji Uehara likely being activated from the disabled list, in time for the home opener.

Workman’s experience in the 2013 playoffs had many thinking, myself included he could have been groomed as a potential closer. Heath Hembree and Zeke Spruill picked up saves in the PawSox first two games of the season in Lehigh Valley. With Workman on the disabled list look for those two to get their opportunities in the closer role for the PawSox.

Early injuries happen to many teams, as the Red Sox opened the season with Joe Kelly and Koji Uehara on the disabled list. You could say it had an effect on the bullpen already, as Edward Mujica blew his first save opportunity Friday night. Ironically, Steven Wright, who took Kelly’s initial roster spot got the win in the 19 inning marathon pitching 5 innings in relief. As the Red Sox get their closer back for the home opener, a key component to the PawSox bullpen will be spending time on the shelf.