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.

Rick Porcello Gives Up 3 Runs in Rehab Start With PawSox

In what has been a wildly unsuccessful first season with the Red Sox, Rick Porcello completed what should be his final rehab outing with the Pawtucket Red Sox on Friday night before returning to the Red Sox rotation for the last five weeks of the season. Porcello will likely replace Matt Barnes in the rotation, unless the team finally decides that Joe Kelly should get an audition in the bullpen.

After a shaky first inning in which Porcello gave up two runs while hitting a batter and Rick Porcelloallowing three stolen bases, Porcello calmed down to allow just one run in the remaining 4.2 innings he went. Overall he went 5.2 while allowing 3 hits, 3 earned runs, striking out 6 including 4 of the last 5 batters he faced and walking none. Obviously the main focus for Porcello is keeping the ball down, especially his fastball which has been hammered this season when it has been left up in the strike zone. He is a sinker ball pitcher, but seems to rely on his fastball too much and looks like he over throws at times. It’s okay Rick if you can’t throw 99—the Red Sox already have Joe Kelly over throwing as it is.

The next month of the season for Porcello will be a big test as he looks to right the ship on what has been a rough start to his Red Sox career. After being acquired from the Tigers in a winter trade, Porcello signed a 4 year extension with the team paying him over $80 million before he even threw a pitch in a Red Sox uniform.

Obviously that contract is a lot to live up to, but Red Sox fans should remember that John Lackey’s first few years with the Red Sox weren’t great either and he went on to help them win a World Series in 2013. Time is on Porcello’s side to prove he is a better pitcher than he has looked this season. However, to expect him to live up to that contract may be farfetched.

Dave Dombrowski, recently named President of Baseball Operations for the Red Sox, is the man who drafted Porcello, but also the man who traded him, so we will soon find out how he really feels about Porcello. Obviously his results this season will not make it easy to move him, but maybe if he is counted on less, he will be a much better pitcher next season.

Ryan Hanigan Begins Rehab Assignment with PawSox

On Monday night the PawSox had a familiar name in the lineup batting third. None other than Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan, who began a rehab assignement after being out since May 1st after taking a foul ball off the hand. Hanigan caught 7 innings and was lifted for pinch hitter Humberto Quintero.

With Hanigan on the 60 day disabled list will likely spend much of a 20 day rehab assignment with the PawSox befire getting called up. Obviously strength in the hand is Ryan Haniganvery important for catchers, so my guess is the Red Sox will have him play a few games back to back and assess when he will be ready to come back. With Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon handling catching duties the last six weeks the pitching staff has looked better, but Hanigan has still had an impact from the dugout serving as a mentor for his catching teammates.

Hanigan was the catcher in Monday nights game against Rochester and was the DH in Tuesday’s tilt batting third both games. Hanigan did not catch Matt Barnes who came on to pitch the 9th inning in a 3-2 PawSox loss.

With a minor foot injury leaving Blake Swihart day-to-day the Red Sox claimed catcher Erik Kratz off waivers from the Royals as he will serve as insurance likely until Hanigan is ready to return. The decision to demote Blake Swihart may be a difficult one as he has made strides on the fly, but getting regular at bats is what Swihart needs as a young player for his confidence. Sandy Leon has served as Clay Buchholz’s undeclared personal catcher the first few months of the season, could also be a roster casualty once Hanigan returns.

Should the Red Sox continue to fall out of the race Hanigan himself could be appealing to teams looking to add a veteran catcher to their roster. Hanigan is signed through 2016 for $3.7 million with a club option for 2017 worth the same number, a contract he originally signed with Tampa Bay. For now Ryan Hanigan is working is way back from injury and the Red Sox will be glab to have him back on their roster.

Pat Light Spotless Early On For PawSox

Last week when Pat Light got the call-up the the PawSox from Portland, many expected, myself included him to take over the closer role for the PawSox. After all Light has been seen this season hitting 100 mph on his fast ball on the occasion and that is something that will miss bats in the late innings, especially in the minor leagues.

So far in two out of his three appearances with the PawSox he has collected saves, both Pat Lightcoming against Toledo during last weekends home stand at McCoy Stadium. His lone other appearance, coming Tuesday night in Charlotte wasn’t something to shy away from either as it only took him 8 pitches to get through the inning including a strike out.

Matt Barnes was recently optioned to the PawSox, after his free fall in last weekends series against the Blue Jays, and he can also bring the heat. Barnes, much like Light was a starter until this season and both could play huge dividends for future Red Sox teams out of the bullpen. Barnes and Light will likely split the closer duties for the PawSox with Heath Hembree and Robbie Ross now up with Boston.

There is no question about the talent of Light, as he was drafted in the first round, three years ago. It just took a little while for the Sox to find a good position for him. Trey Ball, 2013 first round pick is going through the same trouble. The goal for any pitcher starter or reliever is to miss bats and get outs. In his three appearances with the PawSox he has yet to allow a base runner in three innings of work while collecting 4 strikeouts.

Time will tell how long Pat Light can keep this streak going, but for a pitcher who had not appeared in a game above AA before this season, Light looks to be on the fast track to the big leagues.

Matt Barnes Stretching His Arm Back Out

Matt Barnes
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Pitching two scoreless innings for the Boston Red Sox in relief on April 25th, the effects of the big league club renting PawSox starting pitcher Matt Barnes still linger.

En route to the big league club’s 5-4 loss against the Baltimore Orioles that Saturday, Barnes allowed two hits and struck out one. Closer Koji Uehara gave up a solo shot in thematt barnes tenth, taking home the loss in a heart breaker.

On Friday, Barnes had his first start since April 19th and gave the PawSox four sharp innings on a strict 75-80 pitch limit.

In the first inning, he gave up a solo home run, but it was the sole blemish on a rather productive outing. He went four innings and gave up one run on four hits while striking out seven. In all, PawSox pitching fanned 13 batters in the loss. Barnes got a no-decision for his efforts.
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“It was fine,” Barnes said of his arm following the outing. “It’s just one of those things where you have to dial it back up a bit, but it feels good.”

So far this season Barnes has not been able to throw a full outing for Pawtucket. Before being called up to Boston, Barnes was working on getting his arm back up to par after fighting for a spot in the bullpen this spring. His efforts were unsuccessful, although he fanned 18 hitters in 13 innings.

Manager Kevin Boles is pleased with the way Barnes is pitching, but he held off in giving a time and date as to when he would be pitching a full outing without any limits.
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“We’ll see about that,” he said. “We shortened up his pitch count since he threw two innings in the big leagues. We’re going to do right and build him up over time. Again, it’s a quality arm and the versatility he shows starting and relieving is impressive.”

Steven Wright Back On Track In Latest Start With PawSox

Steven Wright PawSox

After not pitching in an official game in eight days Steven Wright took the mound Thursday afternoon at McCoy Stadium against the Syracuse Chiefs and had his best outing of the year and was more of what the Red Sox expect out of the knuckleballer.

After being called up on Monday after the Red Sox bullpen was taxed this weekend in Steven WrightBaltimore, Wright never appeared in a game. He was, however, warming up in the bullpen on Monday in the early innings before Joe Kelly calmed down and got through six innings for the Sox. Wright was subsequently sent down to start Thursday afternoons game for the PawSox. Wright rejoined the PawSox rotation giving more rest for starters Matt Barnes and Eduardo Rodriguez who will pitch against Durham this weekend.

Wright was dominant in the early innings striking out three of the first five batters he faced, all looking at the dancing knuckler. On the day Wright finished with seven strikeouts, five looking and allowed no runs, on four hits in seven innings of work earning the win in a 4-0 game. The most encouraging sign in my opinion was Blake Swihart who seemed to struggle catching the knuckle ball in recent outings but Thursday Swihart had one passed ball but recovered nicely for the rest of the game.

Red Sox starters have struggled getting out of jams of late with innings starting with hits ending in runs and a lot of them. Wright battled out of a bases loaded one out jam in the 5th inning, caused by himself by walking two batters, but got a key ground ball to shortstop Deven Marrero, who stepped on second and threw to first for the double play. This encouraging start by Wright could push the Red Sox to make a decision on a starter soon if they continue to struggle. Ben Cherington has said he is not bringing up any starters from the minors at this time, but most would assume Wright is not part of that group Cherington is referring to.

Other highlights on the afternoon were solo home runs for Travis Shaw and Deven Marrero. Marrero continues to get better with the bat and his hitting .281 after the first month of the season. Blake Swihart got on base three times, twice walking and legging out an infield single. Swihart has been on base in seven straight games and is hitting a robust .338 good for ninth in the International League. He will continue to catch everyday for the PawSox but at some point this summer expect him to make his way up Interstate 95 to Fenway Park.