Tommy Layne arrived at spring training knowing he had little chance of making the Red Sox. He was part of a crowd of lefthanded relievers that included three sure bets in Craig Breslow, Chris Capuano, and Andrew Miller.
Even when Breslow started the season on the disabled list, there was no room for Layne. At 29, he went to Triple A and waited for an opportunity.
“I didn’t get too caught up in the numbers because you just can’t,” Layne said. “I knew it was going to be a battle.”
Layne pitched in 37 games for Pawtucket. Eleven of his outings were at least two innings and others lasted one or two batters. He had a 1.50 earned run average and allowed one home run over 48 innings while striking out 53.
The Red Sox rewarded Layne on July 5, calling him up to be the extra player in the second game of a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles
“That was big for me because I got on the [40-man roster], and that’s half the battle,” Layne said. “Then you become the guy they can call up when they need somebody.
Layne was recalled Aug. 1 after the Red Sox traded Miller to the Orioles and has been quickly become an important part of the bullpen.
After a less-than-stellar performance Saturday when he allowed two base runners without recording an out, he has appeared in 10 games and allowed one run over 7⅓ innings with four walks and six strikeouts. Opposing hitters are 3 for 25 against him.
“He’s been consistent. He’s thrown the ball well,” manager John Farrell said before the Red Sox beat the Astros, 10-7, Saturday night. “He had an outstanding spring training for us. He continued that throughout the year at Pawtucket and that hasn’t changed since he’s come to us.”
Layne appeared in 40 games for the San Diego Padres from 2012-13, posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. But he was designated for assignment last October. The Red Sox signed him to a minor league contract three weeks later.
“I had a good 2012 and ’13 didn’t pan out. I got optioned on the last day of spring training, was up and down all year, and then designated,” Layne said. “When the Red Sox called, it was shortly after the World Series and I wanted to go to a place where winning mattered. This is one of the teams you want to pitch for.”
The St. Louis native pitched for three colleges before he was drafted by Arizona in 2007 and the Red Sox are his third team.
With Breslow struggling, Layne has become the most reliable lefthander in the bullpen and pitched in pressure situations in recent outings.
“It’s an opportunity that’s been presented to him and he’s making the most of it,” Farrell said. “Any time we have that matchup situation, he’s a guy that we have not been reluctant to go to and he continues to execute.”
Given the scarcity of dependable lefthanded relievers, Layne could be in the team’s plans for next season.
“He’s making a strong case for himself as we look to see what’s currently here and what we may come across being available in the offseason,” Farrell said.
Said Layne: “Every time out for me is like a tryout. If that helps me get an opportunity for next year, that’s great. If not, I’ll move on.”
Counting the postseason, Koji Uehara has appeared in 142 games over the past two season, the most in the game. Junichi Tazawa is second with 141.
Uehara has thrown 145⅔ innings in that time and Tazawa 126⅓.
With the Red Sox out of contention, piling on work could be seen as needlessly detrimental. The Red Sox would like to retain Uehara, who will be a free agent after the season. Tazawa is arbitration eligible and under team control.
Uehara, a 39-year-old former starter, has said he is comfortable with his workload. But for Tazawa, 28, this is something new.
“Very conscious of him,” Farrell said. “You monitor the reaction of the hitter. You monitor the stuff in which he’s throwing. He hasn’t lost velocity. There might be a little bit less consistency to the overall command.
Tazawa has been healthy the last two seasons and charts show his velocity has indeed been consistent. But there is a line Farrell has to watch.
“You begin to prioritize rest and health,” he said. “That’s not saying that we’re not looking to win every game. But I think of prioritizing and not pushing a guy too far.”
Right back at it
Dustin Pedroia fouled a ball off his right foot Friday night and left the game in the ninth inning. But he was back in the lineup Saturday and went 2 for 5 with two runs scored.
“He’s still a little sore but not to the point of keeping him out of the lineup,” Farrell said before the game. “He did a lot of icing on it, even after he left the ballpark [Friday] night. He was able to reduce and limit the swelling that was in there.”
Pedroia passed some strength tests Saturday before he was cleared to play.
Rehab on deck
Outfielder Allen Craig sprained his left foot Aug. 1 during his first game with the Sox after being acquired from St. Louis and has been on the disabled list since. He will start a rehabilitation assignment with Pawtucket on Monday.
Craig expects to need two or three minor league games before returning. Pawtucket is playing at home this week and has a game against Scranton on Monday night.
Catcher David Ross elected not to go on a rehab assignment and will be activated Monday or Tuesday. Ross has been out since Aug. 2 with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday.
Because of injuries, Ross has played only 76 regular-season games the last two seasons.
Could be worse
The Red Sox have the eighth-worst record in the majors. That bottom portion of the standings is worth keeping an eye on. If the Sox finish with one of the 10 worst records, their first-round draft pick in 2015 would become protected from forfeiture if the team signs a qualified free agent . . . Celtics guard Marcus Smart, the sixth overall pick of the NBA Draft, and Patriots defensive lineman Dominique Easley, the 29th overall pick of the NFL Draft, threw out ceremonial pitches . . . The game was delayed in the ninth inning when a child ran onto the field. Uehara, who was pitching, then allowed a home run . . . The 10 runs were the most at Fenway for the Sox since they scored 10 against the Indians on June 13 . . . The Sox are 44-0 when leading after eight innings, the only team in the majors undefeated in that situation.