Anthony Ranaudo Makes Texas Debut

Anthony Ranaudo

During the off season, in the wake of all the acquisitions to this years pitching staff, general manager Ben Cherington made the move to trade away 25-year-old Anthony Ranaudo to the Texas Rangers. Boston acquired left-handed specialist, Robbie Ross Jr. in return from Texas.

The Ranaudo trade to Texas caught a lot of Boston fans by surprise. Anthony Ranaudo ranked in Anthony Ranaudothe top-three of pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization and seemed to be on the rise. Ranaudo was outstanding in 2014 while pitching for the Pawtucket Red Sox, posting a 14-4 record to compliment a 2.61 ERA en route to International Pitcher of the Year honors. Ranaudo also had a nasty curveball—winning best curve ball in the Boston Red Sox organization for two straight years. Ranaudo got some brief time with the MLB club down the stretch, going 4-3 with a 4.81 ERA in seven starts.

Ranaudo’s brief struggles in the show weren’t necessarily the reason he was dealt, but more or so the reason of where does he fit in? Boston was able to bring in veteran starters, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley in the offseason leaving no room for Ranaudo in the rotation. Boston also has top-tier prospects named Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Matt Barnes knocking on the door so, in the big scheme of things, Ranaudo didn’t have a spot; Boston had a need for a left-handed reliever.

Ranaudo made his first start for a depleted Ranger rotation on Wednesday as he was opposed by Hector Santiago of the Los Angeles Angels. He would only go 1.2 innings in this one, allowing six hits, six runs to go with a 1-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

After a relatively smooth first inning, Ranaudo struggled heavily in the second. David Freese’s single to center lead to a Chris Iannetta walk, followed by a walk soon after- making it bases loaded with one-out. Angels second baseman, Johnny Giavotella, would deliver the big blower with a liner to left field scoring two and it would just get worse from there. Los Angeles was able to tack on four more runs off of Ranaudo en route to a 10-2 win.

Obviously Ranaudo wasn’t as prepared for this start as he would have liked to have been. It’s also obvious that he still needs some work down in the minor leagues before he can come up and make that impact the Rangers need him to make.

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.

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.

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.