The drama of the early season for the Boston Red Sox will circulate around the bullpen. By the first 25 games, Red Sox Nation will know if inaction failed or succeeded.
The litany of the Boston Red Sox bullpen is a road well-traveled – traveled to the extent that it seems to be a haven for ruts and potholes. Again the continued angst has once again emerged after the World Series triumph. The triumph placed a temporary hold on bullpen critique since the much maligned collective performed admirably when most needed. That was then and this is now.
The absence of Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel created opportunity, but it also created drama on the continuing scale of a reality show a dreadful daily soap opera. To wit – the possible replacements parts have not responded as Red Sox Nation expected. This is based solely on what has transpired this spring with a daily adventure in how to self immolate. This bullpen has resembled all the results one would expect from lighting a match around a gas leak.
Dave Dombrowski practiced bullpen abstinence in the late stages of the 2018 season and forgoed acquisition of extra arms much to the dismay of all those with a vested emotional interest in the locals. This offseason the imperious Dombrowski has continued on his trek of abstinence, by relying on shoveling through the detritus of less than admirable free agent arms and diligently hoping that baseball lightning strikes twice, and somewhere the remaining 2018 incumbents arise to the challenge and elevate their game to the next level.
The late spring training results are less than promising with an eerie and consistent pummeling of whoever is selected by manager Alex Cora to be the pitching pinata of the day. Am I worried? Are you worried? Is management worried? Speaking for myself the panic button is not being pushed, but it is cautiously being observed and ready to be pounced upon.
Baseball with its almost never-ending schedule is a system that does not cry out but shouts out for the practice of patience. I do not dismiss the poor performances of the spring, but will be a bit more judicious in assessing this bullpen once the real pressure is faced. Just what will be the eventual alignment is an intriguing debate?
The obvious heir apparent to Kimbrel is Matt Barnes who is Kimbrel like in his ability to issue a prodigious number of walks and an equally prodigious amount of whiffs. Just how you get to Barnes will be an ongoing debate and may not ultimately be decided until late in the season. In fact, it may not be Barnes whose existence as the closer is all depended upon closing and not opening the offensive flood gates to watch a dismal post-game retreat and not the expected celebratory exit.
The season starts with a dreadful eleven game tour of the west which should give insight into just how the bullpen will perform? A nice trial run before returning to Boston to face the ire outrage or the “you guys did damn well.” Remember this is – or was in 2018 – a great road team – just ask the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers about that. But what happens with a performance where the bullpen – each and everyone – take turns to see who can be the new Heathcliff Slocumb.
That circle route returns us to patience and sometimes a bit of time and a dose of trial and error is necessary. Patience, of course, will be dependent upon just what those boys from the Bronx are accomplishing. A sinking Red Sox road excursion and a Yankee surge will create a nice pressure vacuüm for Dombrowski.
Let’s step ahead to early May and the Red Sox are mired around .500 and the one weak link of concern – the bullpen – has consistently performed inconsistently. Then you will see consequences and that means repairing the damage or really the neglect. This is not a management of inaction – never has been.