The Red Sox have their bridge.
Chris Sale’s dominance and an overpowering bounce-back save by Craig Kimbrel were the marquee acts in the Red Sox’ 3-0 win over the Blue Jays Tuesday, but in between those two, Addison Reed continued to make his own statement. For the first time with the Red Sox, Reed pitched for the third time in as many days, smothering Toronto’s only offensive spark of the evening.
After allowing a pair of hits to open the eighth following a long delay, Sale was removed in favor of Reed. The setup man responded with back-to-back strikeouts of Ezequiel Carrera and Miguel Montero before a two-out single by Ryan Goins loaded the bases. Reed then attacked left fielder Steve Pearce with eight consecutive fastballs, all at the top of the strike zone or above it, with the final offering resulting in a ground out to short.
“I thought Reeder was huge there in that eighth inning,” said Sale. “I left him in a freaking dumpster fire right there and he did a hell of a job getting us out of it.”
That sort of performance is precisely what Reed was acquired to do when the Red Sox got him at the trade deadline from the Mets in exchange for three minor league pitchers. Reed has become the Sox’ high-leverage setup man of choice.
His emergence in that capacity seemed in question for a brief time earlier this month, when he had a mess of an outing (four runs on two hits, a walk, and a hit batter without recording an out) against the Yankees Aug. 11. Two days later, manager John Farrell attempted to remove him from his next appearance in favor of Kimbrel in the middle of an at-bat. But since that low point, Reed has won the trust of Farrell.
“The little hiccup in New York, that’s part of baseball,” said Reed. “It’s going to happen. It happens to everybody. It just happened to be earlier on when I got traded over here, so I think people made a bigger deal out of it than it should have been. But I know what I can do.”
Increasingly, his impact has been on display to his new team, not just in terms of his performance — despite a 4.76 ERA in 12 games, Reed has allowed one run on three hits in his last 8⅔ innings with 11 strikeouts and two walks — but also for his durability. There is an element of dependability for the Sox simply in Reed’s regular physical ability to be on the mound.
That Reed was appearing in a game for the third straight day underscored one of his signature traits. After he appeared in 80 games in 2016, he has now appeared in 60 contests this year. The 140 combined appearances since the start of last year are the second-most in the majors (Padres lefty Brad Hand has pitched in 141), and Reed’s 48 appearances on zero days of rest are the most in the majors.
The righthander feels he has figured out how to be available for frequent usage without compromised effectiveness.
“I’m not a big guy on rest,” said Reed. “That’s the one thing that I told myself — I’m going to try to show up to the field every day ready to go. Whether I pitch one day or three days in a row, I’m going to come in tomorrow and try to do everything I can to get ready for tomorrow.
“It’s definitely something I take pride in. The whole reason you play baseball is to go out there and be on the mound and play.”
Reed’s 2.41 ERA since the start of 2016 is the eighth-best among the 93 pitchers who have made at least 100 appearances. His 27.8 percent strikeout rate is in the upper third of that group, and his 4.0 percent walk rate is the fourth-lowest.
Reed said that over the course of his six full seasons in the big leagues he has learned how to keep himself in position to pitch regularly, usually while maintaining the quality of his fastball/slider arsenal. But, he noted, he also has learned how to regulate his pitches on days when his stuff isn’t as good, to make up for diminished explosiveness with improved location.
And after pitching in October the last two seasons with the Mets, he believes he’s ready for the rigors of a baseball calendar that extends an extra month.
“It’s definitely the last two years where I’ve gotten better at pacing myself and being able to stay strong the whole year,” said Reed. “Early on in my career, I felt good the first couple of months and kind of fizzled out at the end.
“I do everything I can to try to stay ready. I expect to stay ready through October.”
The Red Sox appear willing to test that proposition.