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Welcome to part two of my five postseason questions. This article focuses on the bullpen.
Sure, looking at the numbers you could make a case they’ve had the second to third best bullpen in all of baseball. However, digging deeper, the numbers are a bit skewed with Kimbrel’s dominant season with a 1.34 ERA. Looking at the rest of the bullpen, it’s hard to point out who the next man up is.
Before the season the Sox planned to have Carson Smith in July, but had acquired Tyler Thornburg for Travis Shaw in which he would be the setup man going forward. Before throwing a regular season pitch, Thornburg was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, quickly throwing a wrench in Dombrowski’s plan.
John Farrell tried using Kelly and Barnes, two flame throwers, but to no avail. Neither man excelled under the extreme pressure. The lack of a true set up man, forced Kimbrel more than often due to Farrell’s lack of trust in an 8th inning guy. Due to Kimbrel’s heavy workload, Dombrowski opted to trade for Addison Reed. Despite early struggles, Reed has settled in nicely at the back end of the bullpen.
Then there was Carson Smith, as many Red Sox fans were forgetting about his existence. Smith has shown flashes of brilliance, despite not being at 100%. The velocity isn’t there yet, but with a full offseason of recovery, his arm strength will improve.
The remaining options consist of the forgotten group Fernando Abad / Blaine Boyer / Robby Scott, risky Heath Hembree, and the unknown Austin Maddox. Maddox is the only guy that has inspired any sort of confidence.
Brandon Workman has largely locked up a roster spot as well. A 2013 bullpen hero, Workman has spent the last few years recovering from Tommy John surgery. Since his return this season, he has been exceptional in almost every opportunity. Expect to see him in the middle innings in October.
So, I ask who sets up Kimbrel?
I don’t think there is one set up guy that is going to be “the guy.” I think it’s going to be a continuance of two-three guys like it has been of recent weeks. However, if I was going to bet on it my guess is Addison Reed. Ignore the 3.52 era – it stemmed from a few early appearances. In September alone, Reed has a 2.52 era with 12 strike outs 3 walks and 7 hits in 12.1 innings.
If Reed falters, it is likely that Joe Kelly, or Brandon Workman, will get the next opportunity in the 8th inning. Until that point, expect to see the electric combination of Reed / Kimbrel as the Red Sox strive to make a deep run in the playoffs.