NEW YORK — Baseball wouldn’t be baseball for Burke Badenhop if he wasn’t bouncing around.
In the past four years, he’s hopped from the Marlins to the Rays to the Brewers and now to the Red Sox.
But it’s not just the team that changes, it’s his role as well.
Early in his career, he made a few starts. He’s saved a few games. He’s been a long reliever and a ground-ball specialist.
In four appearances with the Sox this season his job has varied. His role in Boston is fluid, but he’s accustomed to it.
“That’s what I’ve always kind of done, though,” Badenhop said. “There’s going to be plenty of guys that have more defined roles, but you’ve got to roll out there with a couple of guys that are going to be there in a pinch and be there in different spots. And that’s kind of where I usually fall.
“It’s a bit more of a challenge, too, because you’ve got to be ready for anything. Sometimes you’ve got to be ready for the third [inning], sometimes you’ve got to be ready for the 13th.”
In his Sox debut, against the Brewers in the home opener April 4, Badenhop took the mound in the seventh with a one-run lead, pitched two scoreless innings, and handed it over to Edward Mujica, who gave up four runs in the ninth.
The next day, Badenhop entered a game that was tied in the 11th inning with Milwaukee’s 4-5-6 hitters due up. He gave up a pair of doubles, including one by Logan Schafer to plate the go-ahead run.
Three nights later against Texas, he was called upon in the third inning to put out a fire after starter Felix Doubront gave up five runs.
“The mentality is just to try to be ready at all times,” Badenhop said.
Red Sox manager John Farrell trusts Badenhop’s adaptability.
“He’s a guy that’s got the versatility, so he’s on call,” Farrell said. “As we communicate with every reliever on a given day — who’s available, who will be the long guy — they understand that and are aware of it as the game begins.
“His multi-inning ability is what puts him as the leading candidate early in the game. He’s well aware that he can slide in during any point in a game.”
He also trusts the sinkerballer’s ability to get ground outs. When Badenhop was with the Marlins, he and fellow relievers Randy Choate and Ryan Webb made a competition out of it.
“So we would see who wins the ground out-to-fly out championship,” Badenhop said. “That’s kind of our calling card.”
Entering Sunday night’s game, Badenhop had recorded 11 ground outs over six innings.
“That’s what I strive for,” Badenhop said. “If I’m getting the ball on the ground, usually that means things are working pretty well for me.”
Still, being ready to get outs on short notice can be challenging.
Against Texas April 8, Badenhop didn’t expect to be on the mound so quickly. Doubront retired six of seven through two innings in fewer than 30 pitches. Then, things got out of hand.
“I think that caught me a little off guard in Felix’s start because that got going pretty quick,” Badenhop said. “It’s just never really turning it off, because you never know when something can happen and you might be in there.”
With closer Koji Uehara unavailable over the weekend because of shoulder stiffness, everyone in the bullpen has faced an adjusted role.
“Hopefully he’ll be doing fine, but at the same point, in the pen it’s just such a team atmosphere out there,” Badenhop said. “It’s important that I pitch my innings so that no one has to pick up my slack. Guys are going to get banged-up and need a day or whatever and we’re going pick up their slack later in the year.
“It’s give and take and now we’re a little pressed without him obviously in the back of the game, but obviously we can step in there. So it’s just kind of filling those innings and I think John’s done a good job of putting guys in the right spots.”
Since his spotless debut, Badenhop has had mixed results. He gave up a solo home run in the eighth inning of Saturday’s 7-4 loss to New York, his third straight appearance allowing at least one run.
Both Farrell and Badenhop said it was a matter of his sinker being too high up in the strike zone. When Badenhop thrives, Farrell said, he dominates the bottom of the zone.
“It doesn’t even need to be down down,” Badenhop said. “Just as long as I’m not up, things flatten out for me, guys see the ball a lot better and not only am I not getting better contact for the hitter, it’s just not a place where I want to live.
When he’s called upon again, Badenhop said he and his sinker both will be ready — regardless of the situation.
“That’s how it’s always been,” he said. “I expected better out of myself, obviously, than the results we’ve been getting. But that’s kind of how it’s always been. You’ve got to have some guys with some versatility out there.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.