KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s beneficial to have young, fresh arms in the bullpen, but it’s also important to have experience. The Red Sox have a little of both, but last night when Jake Peavy didn’t have it, the Red Sox had to rely upon rookie Drake Britton and journeyman Pedro Beato to stop the bleeding in a six-run sixth inning, and they didn’t do the job.
It’s tough to manage bullpens, and to this point the Red Sox have been successful in wading through injuries.
The Red Sox have had to use 19 different relievers, tying them with the Angels, Astros, and Blue Jays for the most in baseball. They lost Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Andrew Miller to season-ending surgeries and Daniel Bard is completely out of the picture.
There has been no Franklin Morales, though he will be activated Saturday and take Beato’s job. And virtually no Alfredo Aceves.
The stable guys have been Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Craig Breslow.
Now you have a bullpen with the three reliables and three rookies in Britton, Brandon Workman, and Rubby De La Rosa, who have struggled lately. Workman gave up nine hits and six runs in his last bullpen outing vs. Houston on Tuesday. De La Rosa allowed two home runs Thursday and Britton, who hadn’t allowed a run in his first 10⅓ innings, has allowed three runs in his last three innings.
Britton has been a pleasant surprise, a young fresh arm who for the most part has thrown strikes, battled hitters, and shown no fear. Beato has one of those great arms but has never been able to put it together. When they relieved Peavy in the sixth inning, they were unable to do the job.
Maybe it’s just a bad game. Britton allowed a seeing-eye single between the third base and shortstop hole in the sixth inning to Eric Hosmer that scored two runs. But it all counts. You wonder if this is going to problematic for the Red Sox going forward, finding the right combination of fresh arms and experience.
The Red Sox made a move for a veteran reliever in acquiring Matt Thornton from the White Sox, but now he’s on the disabled list with an oblique injury. The Red Sox really wanted White Sox righty Jesse Crain, but the Tampa Bay Rays wanted him more and traded for him while he was on the disabled list.
The Red Sox felt they could use the youngsters in front of Breslow, Tazawa, and Uehara and hope the starters can go deep into games. The Red Sox even signed veterans Brandon Lyon and Jose Contreras. Lyon retired and Contreras had to leave the team when his brother died and, since returning to Pawtucket, hasn’t pitched quite as well.
The Red Sox could try to make a waiver deal this month, but there are so many teams in front of them that need relievers that it will be difficult for them to make a waiver claim without being blocked. Kyle Farnsworth was designated for assignment by the Rays, but is Farnsworth better than what the Red Sox have? When pitchers get designated or released at this time of the year, something is seriously wrong with that pitcher.
Manager John Farrell didn’t back away from Britton after Friday night’s outing. When the southpaw came into the game, there were lefties coming up at the bottom of the order and lefties at the top. He got two batters, but allowed a walk, a sacrifice fly, and a two-run single.
“That was the spot for Drake,” Farrell said. “Drake has shown he can come into key spots and get the job done with a ground ball.”
Asked about his young bullpen, Farrell said, “That’s what we have. Guys have been thrust into responsible roles relatively quick. We’ve gained quick confidence in them.”
The Red Sox still have Alex Wilson, who had pitched well out of the pen and who could help in September. Clayton Mortenson and Chris Carpenter are back at Pawtucket. Knuckleballer Steven Wright could also be summoned back, as could Jose De La Torre,
The Red Sox have had depth in relief. If they didn’t they’d be in big trouble right now.
What’s interesting with Workman is that he’s made three outstanding starts and two horrible bullpen appearances. Maybe he’s just not a reliever.
De La Rosa was throwing up to 98 miles per hour when he entered the game Thursday, but he threw two balls right over the middle of the plate and major league hitters can hit them if the ball is in their hitting zone. These are the types of mistakes that young pitchers make.
Can the Red Sox afford to have on-the-job training while they’re in a pennant race and in a tough competition with the Rays for the divisional title?
They are young, fresh arms who can throw a baseball through a concrete wall. But it’s nitty-gritty time. It’s the dog days of August. It’s the time of the year when the races are heading down the homestretch.
A little experience goes a long way. It appears the Red Sox could use that now.