Pat Light Promoted to Pawtucket

As the Red Sox finish up their draft responsibilities as they look to pick up some future All-Stars in the draft, a pitcher in their minor leagues has been making noise this season, after a move to the bullpen. 2012 draft pick Pat Light has been promoted to AAA Pawtucket after a hot start at AA Portland this season.

The Red Sox chose Light as the 37th pick in the 2012 Draft, a draft that includes current Pat LightPawSox players Deven Marrero and Brian Johnson. Marrero and Johnson were both more known that Light among the fans I feel the past few season as they both progressed much faster than Light. Light was a starter in 2013-2014 where he struggled with getting batters out.

Born in New Jersey, Light attended Monmouth University, Light looks to be another arm PawSox manager Kevin Boles can use out of the bullpen. Boles has not seen Light pitch yet, so his first appearance with the PawSox will hopefully be an eye opener. Light’s switch to the bullpen this season has had a great impact on his stuff as he only has to go through a lineup maybe once a game, so they are not seeing all of his pitches.

Before this season Light had never appeared in a game above AA, and now he is one more step to the big leagues, where the Red Sox bullpen continues to look for reliable arms past Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa. Light excelled in Portland with an ERA 2.43 in 21 games with the Sea Dogs collecting 3 saves. The stat that sticks out is only 8 earned runs in almost 30 innings of work with a WHIP of 0.98. Last year as a starter Light had an ERA of 4.83 in 25 starts.

Many players from the 2012 MLB Draft are already making noise in the big leagues including Carlos Correa and Joey Gallo just in the last week. Michael Wacha was taken in that draft as well and looks to be the next ace of the Cardinals right now with Adam Wainright down for the year. The game Pat Light pitches in will be his first in AAA, and soon could be pitching on the mound at Fenway.

Koji Uehara Is a Question Mark This Season

koji uehara

One of the first moves the Red Sox made this off-season was resigning closer Koji Uehara before he hit the free agent market. He likely could have gotten more money if he hit the open market—after seeing the contracts that Andrew Miller, Luke Gregerson, and David Robertson received. Although all three of those pitchers are not entering their age 40 season.

Uehara will turn 40 on April 5th and whether he is on the roster the next day for OpeningKoji Uehara Day in Philadelphia remains to be seen. It was labeled as a “close call” just Wednesday after it was reported Uehara has suffered a hamstring strain. Hamstring strains for pitchers are not easy to recover from, as their legs are important—especially for Uehara who doesn’t hit the upper 90’s on the gun anymore. This is also not the first time he has suffered a strain of his hamstring, as he missed two months in 2010 while with the Orioles.

To replicate his great 2013 second half run many thought Uehara would have to drink from the fountain of youth. The first half of last season it seemed Uehara made a trip to that fountain, as he continued his great run earning a trip to the All-Star Game for the first time. As the Red Sox fell out of contention, Uehara became victim to the home run and was even shut down for a time. He arrived at spring training talking about how he suffered through an injury last season that may have effected his play, but did not disclose the injury. Now with a hamstring strain many Sox fans have to wonder: will he be on the roster in Philadelphia and, if he is on the roster, will he be effective?

In 3 games of Grapefruit League action, Uehara has given up 2 runs on 7 hits in just 3 innings of work. Some may say spring statistics do not matter, but it is always nice to see a pitcher give up less hits than innings pitched. The growing concern could be that Uehara is not recovered, thus resulting in poor performance on the mound. If the Sox want him to be an important piece across the season, he cannot be rushed back.

Closing option one with Uehara out is Edward Mujica, who had a tough first half last season in his first in the American League, but had a solid second half of the season. John Farrell has said he will be closer “B.” A pitcher to keep an eye on is Alexei Ogando, who the Red Sox brought in after being non-tendered by Texas. Ogando has been injured for much of the past two seasons, but has been better out of the bullpen in his career. He is a two pitch pitcher, featuring a live fastball and an above average slider. Junichi Tazawa seems to be best in a set-up role, so he might not get many save opportunities. The trickle down affect of this Uehara injury could open up a bullpen spot for either Brandon Workman or Matt Barnes to start the year. One thing is for certain, the starting rotation is not the only question mark going into the season as Koji Uehara has now been added to the list.

Red Sox First Half Report Card By Position: Relief Pitchers

Red Sox First Half

In the Red Sox first half, the bullpen has been pretty good despite a few pitchers who can’t seem to get it together. There were a few new faces added this offseason in Edward Mujica, Burke Badenhop, and the since-released Chris Capuano to go along with the core group from last year. Overall, the bullpen ERA sits at 3.10 which is good for tenth in the MLB and fifth in the AL.

Koji Uehara caught everyone by surprise last year with his lights-out second half of the year and playoffs, and he hasn’t been too far off this year. Although he has had a couple of blown saves, and has let up some late home runs in tie ballgames, he has kept his ERA to 1.65 before the break. The only AL closer who can top that is Toronto’s Casey Janssen who entered the break with a 1.23. There’s a small chance Koji could be dealt, but let’s hope the best closer in the AL sticks with the Red Sox.

Junichi Tazawa has been in the Sox bullpen for three years now and has been a reliable setup man in the past. With a 2.61 ERA and low WHIP to go along, Tazawa has fulfilled his expectations again this season. It was unsure what role he would have in the bullpen when Mujica was signed, but Tazawa has showed that his experience in the AL is an important factor.

Craig Breslow was coming off a career year and solid postseason, but is currently posting his worst year in a decade in the big leagues. The 33-year-old has a solid career ERA of 2.99, but that includes this season’s 5.18 he has posted in 34 games before the break. Breslow needs to get it together if he wants to continue to see time out of the bullpen.

With Breslow stumbling, Andrew Miller has done great in his lefty specialist role out of the pen. Although he had a stretch in May in which he lost four of six appearances, he has only allowed two runs in 16 outings since June. His 2.23 ERA at the break puts him only behind Uehara in the Sox bullpen and his 14.45 K/9 is by far the best on the team.

Burke Badenhop has been shaky as of late, but has been a solid option for John Farrell out of the bullpen all year. Allowing runs in three out of his last four outings before the break, his ERA has gone up from 1.62 to 2.93. He has only allowed one home run on the year though, which only he and Miller have done. Badenhop’s reliability has made him probably the best off season signing by the Red Sox.

Edward Mujica lost his job as closer for the Cardinals in the second half of last season and it has been all downhill since then. His two year contract already looks like a mistake and he is just another example of a NL pitcher who can’t handle the AL. In his first three years in the majors in Cleveland, he had a 6.04 ERA in 70 innings. In his five years in the NL, he had a 3.31 ERA. Now he’s back up to a 5.45 ERA in Boston. Is it a coincidence? Possibly, but I hope we don’t have to deal with this for another year and a half.

Chris Capuano was yet another lifetime national leaguer and he just couldn’t cut it for the Sox. He was never really that great in the NL to start with, but the signing was an odd choice to begin with. Capuano actually started out great, not allowing a run in 14.1 innings in April. However, 16 earned runs in 17.1 innings in May and June led to him being released. He hasn’t been picked up by another team to this point.

Koji Uehara- Grade: A-

Junichi Tazawa- Grade: B+

Craig Breslow- Grade: F

Andrew Miller- Grade: A-

Burke Badenhop- Grade: B

Edward Mujica- Grade: F

Chris Capuano- Grade: F 
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What Will The Red Sox Bullpen Look Like Next Year?

red sox BullpenAs everyone must know by now, the Boston Red Sox are not in the middle of what is considered to be a “good season”. The club is in last place out of the American League East 92 games into the season, with a winning percentage .001 lower than the Tampa Bay Rays. This mark makes Boston the 3rd worst team in the American League. The only two teams worse are the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers. With the trade deadline approaching, it makes sense for Boston to have a fire sale, so to speak, and clean house so that they are ready for the 2015 season.
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In 2015, the Boston Red Sox will have plenty of open spots on their team, many of which are in the bullpen assuming some pitchers from this year are dealt elsewhere. Let’s take a look and see how the 2015 Red Sox bullpen will shape up.

In the Red Sox bullpen next year, it is safe to assume there will be many fresh faces. Andrew Miller, Koji Uehara, Burke Badenhop, and potentially Craig Breslow are all free agents at the end of this year. With this being said, expect Boston to say farewell to these men at the trade deadline at the end of the month. Also, Edward Mujica proved he was another Mark Melancon type guy who could not pitch in the American League and could be dealt at the deadline as well. If not, Boston will likely find some way to get rid of him before the 2015 season.
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Now, who does that leave who is currently in the Boston Red Sox bullpen? This would leave just two men—Junichi Tazawa and Felix Doubront. Of course those two men alone could not be a bullpen and Boston needs to add to their late inning pitchers.

Based off of the loaded farm system the Boston Red Sox are in possession of, the bullpen will be talented and young. Assuming Felix Doubront finds his way back into the rotation, this leaves Junichi Tazawa as the only sure bet. Now take a look at the potential Red Sox bullpen:
Koji Uehara (CL)- Yes, they will go ahead and re-sign him even if he gets traded.

Junichi Tazawa (SU)- His consistency gets him promoted within the pen.

Noe Ramirez (MR)- His dominance in AA and ability to go multiple innings gets noticed and he snags a spot in a roster battle.

Brandon Workman (SM)- Workman, who did not allow a run in the 2013 postseason, goes back to where he belongs and pitches out of the bullpen.

Steven Wright (LR)- Given his erractic and highly effective knuckleball, mixed with some serious stamina, Wright will eat up innings of lopsided games for Boston.

Tommy Layne (LOOGY)- The left-handed specialist could prove valuable to the Red Sox if they give him the right role, which is as a lefty one out guy, or “LOOGY”.

Acquisition (LHP MR)- With plenty of internal talent for the bullpen, Boston lacks a good left-handed option. They will need to get an established lefty for the bullpen even if it only means signing Andrew Miller again.
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Even after a busy trade deadline at the end of the month, the Boston Red Sox will still have plenty of talent. The bullpen next year will be inexperienced for the most part, but very good. It will be well rounded and filled with stamina, meaning Boston will never need to make a roster move in order to have a sufficient bullpen any given night.

A Load of Bull: The Bullpen Needs to Step it Up

Bullpen

If only Andrew Miller’s command were as good as his beard

When Ben Cherington added Joel Hanrahan and Koji Uehara to the bullpen this offseason, it looked like he’d created a real strength for the team. Those two arms solidified a stable that already included Andrew Bailey, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow. The Sox pen was on track to be one of the best in the AL.

The Sox bullpen really should be good. Given the talent it’s stocked with, the pitching expertise of Juan Nieves and John Farrell, and the team-first attitude that’s helped bullpens in Baltimore and Tampa Bay, the Sox pen looks on paper to be an immovable object. Some of the numbers testify that it has been as much; Sox relievers have a 3.19 ERA, certainly a strong number. But the passable statistics belie a bullpen that has blinked in tough situations.

It’s impossible to talk about the bullpen’s struggles without noting the Sox’ 9th inning implosion. Joel Hanrahan doesn’t even deserve discussion, and although Andrew Bailey initially looked to be a decent replacement, he hit a snag when he blew a save against Tampa Bay and didn’t manage to recover before losing his job this past weekend. The absolute futility of Bailey’s pitching was pretty amazing, with the three-walk performance in Tampa and the instantaneous collapse in Detroit standing out. There’s nothing physically wrong with him, as far as we know. He just hasn’t been able to take the heat, folding completely under the pressure of a normal save situation.

Bailey isn’t the only one who hasn’t pitched the way he should. The Sox bullpen as a whole has underperformed its talent, with a pedestrian 11-10 record (the Yankees bullpen is 12-7). That’s ten times that the pen has let a game get away, not counting blown saves or games they couldn’t keep close. Take the infamous Nava-drop game in Detroit; yes, they were on the wrong end of a blown call, but instead of responding with confidence, they let the game slip away.

Closers aside, the pen has actually been pretty solid, but it could be much better. The continuing struggles in high-leverage situations, where good bullpens thrive, are a mystery. Many great closers struggle in non-save situations: they need to feed on the pressure. Sox relievers have been doing the opposite, letting the pressure eat them alive. For a good ‘pen, that’s a load of bull.

Bailing on Bailey

Bailey

I’m sick of this Bailey bro.  He was hurt all last season which  might not have been so bad. At least he couldn’t blow saves on the DL.  And another thing, Josh Reddick, the dude we traded for Bailey, raked last year. How many home runs did he hit you ask? 32.  He hit 32 home runs.  Bailey didn’t even pitch that many innings last season.  Plus Reddick’s beard is way cooler than Bailey’s peach fuzz. Seriously look at this beard:

josh-reddick

It’s mesmerizing. Where were we? Oh god that beard it’s so–Right Bailey! It’s at the point where the 7th and 8th are cake with Koji and Tazawa, but once Bailey enters, I feel like I am back at my first middle school dance: nervous and sweating from weird places.

To be fair, Bailey was sort of thrust into the role.  When Hanrahan unexpectedly hit the 60 day DL Bailey went from set up man to closer over night.  But this isn’t a role Bailey should be unused to.  When he was Rookie of the Year with Oakland he was the closer–as a rookie–it doesn’t get more sudden than that.

Bailey is officially out with three blown saves in his last five chances, and a 4.03 ERA on the year.  So, where do the Sox go from here?

Tazawa is likely first in line, as he’s gotten other chances this season.  Koji could be in the mix as well, but he’s been so dominant as the set up man, Farrell would like to keep him there.