Red Sox continue to insist bullpen is OK
The Yankees on Thursday added to what is shaping up to be a deep and talented bullpen by signing free agent righthander Adam Ottavino to a three-year, $27 million deal.
Ottavino joins Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Zach Britton, and Chad Green as late-inning options for manager Aaron Boone.
The Red Sox on Thursday continued to insist there’s no need to replace Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel, who combined for 128 innings last season.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and manager Alex Cora said they are confident the defending World Series champions can get by with Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier in the late innings backed up by Heath Hembree, Bobby Poyner, Steven Wright, and Brandon Workman.
Of that group, only Barnes, Brasier, and Hembree were on the postseason roster in 2018.
The Sox also have lefthander Brian Johnson and righthanders Colten Brewer, Tyler Thornburg, and Hector Velazquez as potential relievers.
“We’re in a position where we’ve some guys we think have the ability,” Dombrowski said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys who are unproven do those jobs.”
Said Cora: “We’ve got some capable guys. We can maximize the guys that we have . . . We do feel there are guys who can get outs in the ninth inning.”
As was the case in December at the Winter Meetings, Dombrowski reiterated he does not intend to make a “high expenditure” on a closer.
What defines a high expenditure isn’t certain. As he did with J.D. Martinez last year, Dombrowski could wait until Kimbrel lowers his price and negotiate a deal in February. No team has been connected to the 30-year-old righthander.
“Can we get better? Perhaps. We’ll see what takes place,” Dombrowski said.
Dombrowski said the Sox have some payroll flexibility but would prefer to stay under the highest threshold of the luxury tax, $246 million. That has not been mandated by ownership, however.
Dombrowski would not characterize the team’s interest in Kimbrel, who remains a free agent after recording 42 saves last season.
“Am I surprised he’s still out there? I guess I am because he’s a really good pitcher,” said Dombrowski. “For whatever reasons clubs have signed other players for that role.”
Dombrowski and Cora said the Sox would not use one of their primary starting pitchers as a closer.
“We have a great rotation. It balances out. Our strength is the rotation,” Cora said.
Brasier, who at this time a year ago was a free agent, joined the Red Sox on a minor league deal and ended up appearing in 34 regular-season games. He had a 1.60 earned run average and earned Cora’s trust.
“I still feel I need to make the team,” said Brasier, who allowed one run over 8⅔ innings in nine postseason games. “That hasn’t changed. But if my role changes and they need me for the eighth or ninth inning, I’ll be ready. I can handle that.”
Dustin Pedroia, who played only three games last season following extensive surgery on his left knee, texted Dombrowski last weekend to say his running program is going well and he would be ready to play second base.
The message included a video.
“He’s doing well from his own perspective,” Dombrowski said. “Only time will tell.”
Said Cora: “He’s in a good mood. He’s going through his progression. I just want him to be patient. That’s the most important thing and we know in his case that’s difficult.”
The ever-confident Pedroia, now 35, has traditionally overstated his readiness to play coming off injury. The Sox are proceeding carefully and have three capable alternatives in Brock Holt, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Eduardo Nunez.
Dombrowski said the Sox do not intend to sign a second baseman to a major league contract but could add depth via a minor league deal.
The 80th annual Boston Baseball Writers dinner was held at the Intercontinental Hotel.
Those present to receive awards included Cora (MLB manager of the year), Dombrowski (MLB executive of the year), Holt (Jackie Jensen Hustle Award), Brasier (Red Sox rookie of the year), and Blake Swihart (community service).
Roger Clemens was on hand to receive the Cy Young Legacy award, and Ken Harrelson was presented with the Fuchs Memorial Award for long and meritorious service to baseball.
Steve Buckley took home the Dave O’Hara media award, and longtime Fenway Park press box assistant Kevin Doyle won the Tommy McCarthy Good Guy award.
The Sports Museum recognized Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray with a lifetime achievement award.
Single-game tickets for most Red Sox home games will go on sale Jan. 25 at 10 a.m. Tickets will be available at redsox.com or by calling 877-REDSOX9.
There is a limit of 12 single-game tickets per transaction.
Tickets to all regular-season home games will be available, with the exception of six games: The April 9 home opener against the Blue Jays, July 12-13 vs. the Dodgers, July 26-27 vs. the Yankees, and Sept. 7 vs. the Yankees.
Those tickets, along with table seating in right field and Green Monster tickets, will be made available at a later date.