Red Sox Continue to Tease Us

The Red Sox took 2 of 3 from the current best team in the AL after Hanley Ramirez hit a game-winning 2-run home run Sunday to lift the Sox over the Houston Astros. That home run gave the Red Sox their 11th win in 17 games, as they continue to tease us. The worst part—this team looks like a completely different team than the one that we have been watching for the past 3 months.

Minus a few exceptions, notably Rick Porcello (who got slammed in his last start against Red SoxToronto), everyone has been performing better in the past couple of weeks. Hanley Ramirez has hit 5 home runs in his last 10 games, and catcher Ryan Hanigan recorded his first 3 hit game in over a year against the Astros. Let’s not forget to mention the stability Hanigan brings behind the plate (the Sox are 12-8 in games that he starts this season).

And then there’s Koji Uehara who is riding a 7 inning scoreless streak and holding opposing hitters to 1-23 during that span. Like I said, the Red Sox are getting more consistent performances from more of the players.

The Red Sox are making me be optimistic again, and while I really want to believe they can get hot, I’ve heard this story before. Specifically, last year. The Red Sox went 9-1 right before the All Star Break last year, and fell apart after the Red Sox front office dealt away 4 of their 5 starters at the trade deadline. Everything went to pieces after that. Now, I don’t know what their plans for this trade deadline are, but I’m a little worried about that happening again.

I hope my worst fears don’t come true and the front office doesn’t decide to be sellers again. It seems, at least right now, like they’re poised to make a run if they are buyers at the deadline. I think they’re a good #1 starter and some bullpen help away from making a late season push in a weak AL East division if they hold on to their core guys, and add the parts I just suggested. I hope they can pull it off, but I could be wrong. I hope I’m not though. I’ve said before that I hate losing.

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.

Should The Red Sox Have Brought Back Andrew Miller?

Andrew Miller

There is no question last season the Red Sox were in sell mode and, with Andrew Miller set to be a free agent, the Red Sox wanted to get something of value for the pitcher who would command a lot on the open market. With the trade to the Orioles on July 31st, Andrew Miller stepped in and was a part of the Orioles team that won the American League East behind their lefty closer Zach Britton.

Fast forward to this past week at Fenway Park and Andrew Miller is now the closer of the division rival—first place Yankees.Andrew Miller Miller has been paired with Dellin Betances to form one of the more dominant 1-2 punches thus far in the major leagues when it comes to shutting down teams in the late innings.

The Red Sox acquired Eduardo Rodriguez from the Orioles in the Miller trade and he has looked great since coming over from Baltimore. Rodriguez started the year in AAA Pawtucket, but could prove to be valuable down the stretch should the Sox need a starter. With this pitching staff so far, we may be seeing Rodriguez sooner rather than later.

Obviously the Red Sox are happy they got Rodriguez for Miller, but could they have both of them? In the off-season Miller was being heavily pursued as a set-up man and closer for some teams; the Yankees, Red Sox, Astros and Orioles were all in the running. Miller turned down the Astros offer, who then signed Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson. The Orioles were cutting payroll so, Miller likely was not returning to the Orioles in the first place. The Yankees gave Miller $36 million over 4 years and the Red Sox were left in the dust. The thought of trading Lester and then re-signing him in the off-season was made into a huge deal, but re-signing Miller should have been a big deal, in my opinion, as well.

The biggest deal in this is that Miller is still only 29 so, he still has a while to pitch and pitch well. The Red Sox bullpen so far has been over used, but they have not been impressive either. Koji Uehara, who missed the first week, has seen his velocity go down substantially and Edward Mujica has been relegated to mop up duty. Junichi Tazawa, who has been the best pitcher on the staff as a whole, is still owned by the Blue Jays and, as we saw this weekend, Alex Rodriguez. The Red Sox bullpen would look a lot better with Andrew Miller in it.

Miller now is tied for the league lead in saves with 10, two of which he got this weekend at Fenway, with a whopping 23 strikeouts in 13 innings of work. The Red Sox are the team that moved Miller to the bullpen, which he became successful in doing after some struggling years as a starter. Why shouldn’t they be reaping the rewards with a decision they made? Instead he is on the team you hate to lose to and collecting up saves and strikeouts left and right.

Koji Uehara Makes His Return to the Sox

Koji Uehara

Coinciding with the home opener, Koji Uehara was activated from the disabled list on Monday, after being limited in Spring Training due to a hamstring injury. His first save opportunity came on Tuesday night against the Nationals and he did not disappoint.

In an 8-7 Sox win Uehara threw 14 pitches, 10 for strikes, as he was his usual efficient self on the mound while strikinng out two. A very loud foul ball was hit by Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, that went just foul down the left field line, so close to being fair the umpires reviewed it.Koji Uehara Fortunately for the Red Sox the call on the field was upheld and Uehara got Zimmerman to fly out to left field on the next pitch.

Uehara’s return signaled the end to Edward Mujica in the closer spot for the time being. Mujica gave up two solo home runs in his two appearances before Tuesday night. Mujica got the win Tuesday night after going 1 1/3 striking out two. It is still expected that John Farrell will call on Mujica when Uehara needs a day or two of rest, as fatigue could be a factor this season for him, so that is something to keep an eye on.

With Uehara’s return, Tommy Layne was sent down to Pawtucket where he will join Dana Eveland as a lefty in the bullpen. Craig Breslow and Robbie Ross Jr. remain the lefties out of the bullpen for the big league club.

The expectations for Koji Uehara this season are something Red Sox fans seem unsure of. Can he be the lights out closer like he was for the tail end of 2013 and early 2014? Or will he struggle like he did in the second half of last season? Seeing a clean inning from the closer is obviously a good sign, but for the Sox to feel confident in their bullpen, it starts with the closer. With some shaky starts from the rotation the past few days and that 19 inning contest from last week, the bullpen has been used quite often, so a healthy and effective Uehara will only help pitchers like Robbie Ross Jr. and Anthony Varvaro get acclimated to their roles on this club.

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.

Edward Mujica to Serve as B Closer

edward mujica

Despite what some may say, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell seems confident that reliever Edward Mujica is still in the picture this season.
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A few weeks back, the possibility of him being traded was discussed, but Farrell said that he along with Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Alexi Ogando would make of the core of Boston’s bullpen.edward mujica

If anything were to happen to Koji Uehara, the skipper pointed out that Edward Mujica would close out games, or if the soon-to-be 40-year-old just needs a night off.
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Currently, Mujica is serving out his final year of a two year contract which may come as a surprise after how poorly he pitched early on last year.

For Mujica, the 2015 season truly was a tale of two cities, after surrendering ten earned runs in nine innings pitched back in April, he closed out the first half of the season with a 5.45 ERA in 35 outings.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Mujica stepped up his game and really turned things around late in the season, posting a 1.78 ERA in the second half last year. In his final 29 games of the year, he surrendered just five earned runs in 25.1 frames and notched six saves in just as many attempts.
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With the last two spots in the bullpen up for grabs, Robbie Ross Jr., Anthony Varvaro and Brandon Workman all look to make an impact in later innings, but do not count LOOGY Tommy Layne and knuckleballer Steven Wright out of the competition just yet.

While Ross and Varvaro have the advantage in terms of big league track record, Ross does have two options remaining and Varvaro can be dealt if it comes down to it.
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At this point, it would make sense that one of the remaining bullpen spots goes to a lefty and while Varvaro is not a lefty, southpaws are hitting .196 off of him in 270 at-bats, so he and Ross are likely fighting for one spot while Brandon Workman might just slide his way onto the team unopposed.