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.

A Switch to Relief is a Relief for Brandon Workman

Brandon Workman

Unable to capitalize on the opportunity at hand this spring, PawSox pitcher Brandon Workman hopes to get back to the Majors in a timely fashion.
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This year, for the first time in his career, he will serve as a full-time reliever after making 15 starts for the big league club last season.

“Yeah, you know, that’s my role for the season—being used out of the pen—and I’m excited to get brandon workmanto work,” he said. “(I’m) excited to get this thing started up and see where we go from there.”

Some saw the move coming from a mile away and many were surprised that the move did not come a year earlier— after he tossed 8.1 scoreless frames for the Red Sox in the 2013 post season. With high hopes the team tried Workman out as a starter last year, but the results were not great.
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He went 1-10 with a 5.17 ERA in 19 appearances (15 starts) and although he was not a standout, he was not a 1-10 pitcher. He had some outings where the team should have won or where they could have won, but it just did not happen for him. As a result, his WAR suffered— finishing the year at -1.1.

“Last year was a frustrating year for me on a lot of different fronts,” said Workman. “I came out of the beginning part of the year, throwing real well, but things really tailed off for me in the summer. Like you said, there were times when I threw the ball well later in the summer. Things didn’t work out all the time, but that’s part of baseball. I took my share of losses when I didn’t throw the ball well. I got a lot of the tough luck out of the way, but I’m set up for a strong year this year.”

In his big league career, Workman owns a 6.07 ERA in 21 regular season games as a reliever. Knowing that he pitches well at times and poorly at others, Workman’s goal for this year reflects that.
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“Working on bringing some consistency to the table,” he added. “Like you said, there were some times when I threw the ball well, but there were times I didn’t and I’m trying to get myself in a position where I can consistently perform on a day-in day-out basis over the course of this season.”

A starter not too long ago, it is fair to say that Workman might have a little bit more stamina than many other relievers. With that in mind PawSox manager Kevin Boles makes it clear that Workman will not be a one inning guy in AAA this year.
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“We really don’t have too many one inning guys,” Boles said. “I mean as far as development goes, we usually have guys who will go one and then parts of an inning.”

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.

Heath Hembree: A Bullpen Possibility

heath hembree

For the most part, the Boston Red Sox have their Opening Day roster set in stone— with two minor exceptions.

The team’s bullpen has five of their seven spots secured and as a result, two spots are up for grabs. It might not sound like major news, but whoever fills these two positions will have an important role with the Boston Red Sox this season.
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Sure Koji Uehara, Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa, Alexi Ogando and Craig Breslow are Heath Hembreeall locks this season, but right-handed reliever Anthony Varvaro looks to be a near lock. Allowing an earned run in four appearances this spring, the northpaw pitches like a southpaw, and boast excellent splits against lefties. From 2013-2014, Varvaro posted a 2.74 ERA in 123 games for the Atlanta Braves.

Looking to fill that last bullpen spot, it appears as though Boston would go with another righty since having both Breslow and Varvaro is like having two lefties. Sorry Robbie Ross Jr., but you’re out of luck.

From the looks of it, Heath Hembree could be an appealing option for the Red Sox. Closing out Wednesday’s win over the Minnesota Twins, the 26-year-old reliever owns a 2.55 ERA in 15 career big league outings with 18 strikeouts and profiles as a future MLB setup man and potentially even closer.

Gauging ability from Spring Training stats has little merit for position players but if a reliever is struggling in the spring, it tends to be a bad sign. In limited work, Hembree has tossed three scoreless— but it is his raw ability that Boston should find appealing.
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Topping out around 95-96 MPH with his fastball, he also throws a slider which scouts describe as plus. The only issue here is that he lacks a third pitch— Brooks Baseball had him throwing just four change-ups last season, but even those might have been sliders that did not break.

Red Sox Add Reliever Jess Todd on MiLB Deal

jess todd

Pitching depth is always a priority for every big league team– especially in the bullpen. Teams go over the top to make sure they have enough relievers, and especially value those with big league experience. Relievers are cheap, disposable and abundant which is why so many are brought into Spring Training.
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jess toddAdding to their pool of relievers recently were the Boston Red Sox, signing Jess Todd to a Minor League deal which includes an invitation to Spring Training (as almost all do).

Just 28 years old, the righty pitched effectively in AAA last year for the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. As a member of the Reno Aces, Todd showed off his ability to give his team multiple innings out of relief, lasting 72.1 frames in 53 outings. Posting a 3.61 ERA with 66 strikeouts, he was equally effective against righties as he was lefties as righties hit .253 off of him while lefties hit a point lower at .252.
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The year before that, Todd had himself quite the year in the Detroit Tigers farm system, posting a 2.15 ERA in 39 outings, lasting 62.2 innings in all. He managed to strike out 65 men in total.

Best known for being traded with Chris Perez to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Mark DeRosa back in 2009, Todd will come to the Red Sox with a little bit of big league experience.

While Todd has struggled a bit in the Majors posting a 7.62 ERA in 25 games, all but one of which came with the Cleveland Indians, he has not pitched in the big leagues since 2010 and has only gotten better since then.
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As of right now, it appears as though he will start off this year in Rhode Island, adding depth to the Paw Sox bullpen. If it comes down to it, perhaps he is viewed as a viable big league option– if he pitches well enough.