No bullpen in baseball has been taxed as much as the Red Sox’ this season, and the team Wednesday made a pair of moves to add fresh arms, selecting righthander Dalier Hinojosa and recalling lefthander Tommy Layne from Triple A.
Sox relievers had thrown a major league-leading 80⅔ innings entering Wednesday night’s series finale against the Blue Jays, fighting the fires left by the starting staff.
The group’s workload has been especially burdensome the past week, with Wade Miley going just 2⅓ innings on Sunday and Clay Buchholz going 2⅔ innings Tuesday. The bullpen reached a breaking point with Sox manager John Farrell having to call on five of his relievers to finish things off.
“Obviously, we needed the ability to have not only fresh arms, but another pitcher who’s capable of multiple innings, and that’s where Hinojosa comes into the mix,” Farrell said.
Hinojosa, a 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pounder from Cuba, has been waiting for his first major league opportunity since signing a $4.25 million minor league contract with the Sox in 2013. He had spent six seasons with the Guantanamo Indios in Cuba’s Serie Nacional.
“I feel great and I feel grateful, primarily, because the team feels it’s the perfect time to have me come up and really help in end-of-game situations,” Hinojosa said. “So I’ll continue to do what I’ve always done since the last half of last season until now, and I think it’s a great moment and I’ll try to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Leaning largely on a fastball that falls between 92-94 miles per hour with a slider to complement it, Hinojosa pitched 61⅔ innings in 41 games for the PawSox last season with a 3.79 ERA and 65 strikeouts. Adjusting to the colder climate, it took time for him to figure things out. Through his first 20 appearances, he had a 6.26 ERA. But from that point on, it was 1.83. In four games with the PawSox this season, Hinojosa racked up nine strikeouts in 7⅓ innings.
“The stuff that he has, the power in his arm, the breaking ball that he possesses, what we needed was another righthander to match up against righthanded hitters and that’s where he comes into the mix,” Farrell said.
To make room for Hinojosa, the Sox designated righthander Anthony Varvaro for assignment. Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who was called up for Tuesday’s game, was sent back down to free up a roster spot for Layne.
Varvaro was one of the five pitchers called on for clean-up duty Tuesday night, taking the mound in the fifth and giving up one run in 1⅓ innings. In nine appearances, he allowed 14 hits in 11 innings with eight strikeouts. His final three outings were particularly rocky as he gave up four runs in 3⅓ innings for a 10.80 ERA.
“We’re trying to get a number of guys on track, and to single any one pitcher out is probably not the right approach given the work that we have with the group of guys here,” Farrell said.
“Anthony’s strength has been against lefthanded hitting in the past. The fact that we’ve got three lefthanders in the bullpen, the fit was to go the direction we are.”
While the Sox bullpen’s 4.13 ERA is 20th in baseball, part of the difficulty in evaluating it is that the pitchers have rarely worked in their slotted roles. Varvaro, for example, only entered the game in the same inning twice this season.
The job of making things easier on the bullpen, Farrell said, falls on the starters, who had thrown the seventh-fewest innings in the majors this season (112) and owned baseball’s worst collective ERA (6.03) entering Wednesday night.
“You come out of spring training with the intent that you’re going to define roles as best possible,” Farrell said.
“So there’s a trickle-down effect from inconsistent outings as far as length from starters. So many times, you’re going to the reliever that’s most rested rather than the matchup, and unfortunately that’s been the case through different turns in the rotation.”
Farrell kept an eye on the historic scene in Baltimore where the Orioles faced the White Sox in an empty Camden Yards. Days of violent protest in the city led the Orioles and Major League Baseball to close Wednesday’s game to fans. The Orioles routed the White Sox, 8-2. “Very odd and definitely different scenario that you see on TV,” Farrell said. “When you see fans on the outside of the iron gates at Camden Yards looking in and applauding, hopefully it’s something you never see again.” . . . Mike Napoli returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games with strep throat. Napoli’s played all but three games this season, but he’s only started 15, with the Sox opening the season with an interleague series in Philadelphia. The inconsistency had led to a .169 batting average entering Wednesday night’s game, the second-worst start of his career. “Grind through it,” Napoli said. “Everyone goes through it, I’m just going through it early in the season. I’m a veteran, man.”
Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich was on the field for batting practice and spoke to several Sox players. He is hosting a charity ping-pong tournament on May 18 at Game On. “I’m trying to get Dustin [Pedroia] to play,” Ninkovich said. “Heard he was pretty good.” Go to ninkopong.org for information . . . Craig Breslow hosts his third annual “Sip Happens” event on Thursday at the WGBH Studios in Brighton. The food and wine tasting starts at 7 p.m. with a VIP reception at 6:15. The evening benefits the Strike 3 Foundation for pediatric cancer research and treatment. Nearly the entire Sox roster attended last season. Go to strike3foundation.org for information . . . The third annual David Ortiz Children’s Fund Gala will be June 22 at Boston Marriott Copley Place. The cocktail reception and dinner benefits the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and the World Pediatric Project. Go to davidortiz.splashthat.com for information . . . Green Monster tickets for June and July go on sale Thursday at noon. Go to redsox.com/greenmonster for information . . . With his two-run homer in the third inning, Hanley Ramirez tied Ortiz for the Sox record for homers before May with 10.