A Red Sox bullpen that seemed in need of another lefthanded late-innings option got just that Monday, as the team acquired lefthander Fernando Abad from the Twins in exchange for righthander Pat Light before the trade deadline.
Abad, 30, has a 2.65 ERA with 7.7 strikeouts and 3.7 walks per nine innings this year for the Twins. He has allowed two home runs in 34 innings of relief while holding lefties to a minuscule .163/.192/.265 line with 10 strikeouts and just two walks to 52 batters faced.
That said, Abad has seen his results against lefties fluctuate through the years. In 2015, for instance, lefties hammered him at a .277/.315/.545 clip with seven homers. His strikeout percentage against lefties has actually gone down slightly from 2015 to 2016 (23.6 percent to 19.2 percent).
However, an improved curveball has allowed Abad to avoid some of the loud contact that plagued him last year. While he has largely shelved his cutter against lefties, he has put greater emphasis on his four-seam fastball (average velocity of 92 m.p.h.), changeup, and especially his curveball (up from a 19 percent to 39 percent usage rate). Whereas lefties hit .455 with a .909 slugging mark against his curve last year, they are hitting just .177 with a .235 slugging mark this year.
If he can maintain the effectiveness against lefties that he displayed in Minnesota, he could fill a void as a matchup lefty in the Red Sox bullpen. While Boston had both lefthander Robbie Ross Jr. and righthander Junichi Tazawa as effective options against lefties, Tommy Layne had struggled in that role this year, permitting a .259 average and .355 OBP, effectively taking him out of high-leverage situations.
Light, 25, is one of seven Red Sox minor league pitchers to hit triple digits on the radar gun this year. The 2012 first-round pick (No. 37 overall, with one of the two compensation picks for the Phillies’ signing of Jonathan Papelbon) made his big league debut this year, allowing eight runs (seven earned) in 2⅔ innings spanning two appearances. In 31 innings with the PawSox this year, he had a 2.32 ERA with 10.5 strikeouts and 4.9 walks per nine innings.
Despite Light’s ability to produce big numbers on radar guns with his fastball, the pitch generated little deception, resulting in few swings and misses. He relied instead on his splitter as a strikeout pitch while working mostly to ground-ball contact with his fastball.
While some evaluators suggested in the past that he had closer potential, most now view Light’s ceiling as that of either a seventh- or eighth-inning reliever.
Abad, who is making $1.25 million this year, is not eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season.
Alex Speier can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexspeier.