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Red Sox’ pitching plan includes more bullpen games

Alex Cora’s relievers answered the bell in August.FILE/BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF/Globe Staff

As Chris Sale prepped for an evening flight back to Boston from Fort Myers, Fla., on Tuesday afternoon, his manager, Alex Cora, broke down the Red Sox’ plan going forward, one that doesn’t include the lefthander.

The Sox on Sunday transferred Sale (elbow inflammation) to the 60-day injured list, and his season is likely over. The team will likely continue to have bullpen games in his spot in the rotation.

“We added a few guys,” Cora said prior to a 6-5 loss in the opener of a three-game series against the Twins. “That game on Friday [15 innings against the Angels] put us in a tough spot, but we should be fine.”


In the last 27 games entering Tuesday, (Aug. 1-Sept. 1), the Sox bullpen had tossed 129⅓ innings, the fourth most in the majors. The relievers answered the bell, tied with the Astros for the second-best bullpen ERA (3.48) in that span. But remember, this was a team whose strong suit was supposed to be the rotation. Yet injuries and underperformance forced Cora to adjust on the fly.

“A lot of people hate September baseball, but well, right now we’ll take advantage of it,” Cora said of the expanded rosters. “That’s the way you have to manage it.

“I do feel every team we’re going to face that has a chance to do something special, they’re going to go the same way: [Yankees], Twins, and the Rays. I think that’s the way it’s going to be in September. I think we’re capable enough to do it.”

The relievers know what’s in store, too, this month. What’s it like preparing for a bullpen game? It’s different, according to Josh Taylor, but you try to keep the same mentality.

Josh Taylor says preparing for a bullpen game is a little different. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/Getty Images

“You kind of want to try and approach it as every other game,” Taylor said. “You kind of just think, ‘All right, next guy up.’ You do your inning and the whole bullpen is ready for the call. The bullpen game, once the first inning is over, you kind of just think about it as a six- or seven-inning game. You kind of just treat it like a late-game situation.”


Taylor was the first of six relievers Tuesday. After Rick Porcello was touched for six runs in four-plus innings, the Sox bullpen provided five innings of no-hit, no-run relief to give the offense a chance to get back n the game.

Last month during the Sox’ visit to Cleveland, Cora called bullpen games a worthwhile concept but didn’t give much indication that it would be the team’s approach to overcome its deficit in starting pitching. Now, though, he seems to be all-in.

“It’s a good way to manage,” Cora said with a smile. “I like it.”

Chavis setback

Michael Chavis initially was placed on the injured list Aug. 12 with a sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder. That injury healed, and it appeared Chavis would be back after a rehab assignment with Triple A Pawtucket. But the rookie has had a setback because of tightness in his side.

“It’s a shame because he was swinging the bat well,” Cora said of Chavis, who went 2 for 4 with two homers in a game last Friday against Lehigh Valley.

“He made some adjustments and he was feeling a lot better with his shoulder. But this [side tightness] happened. Hopefully the next few days he can do soft toss and hit off the tee. By the end of the week, the goal is for him to be OK.”


Hembree improving

The Red Sox placed righthander Heath Hembree on the IL Aug. 2 because of inflammation in his pitching elbow. The reliever has been making progress.

“I’ve been throwing for about a week now. I feel good. I feel young again,” said Hembree, who received a platelet-rich plasma injection. “I’m really encouraged with how this last week has been going. I didn’t know much about the shot before I had it done. I kind of just trusted the people around me. Having the time off and giving the shot its time to do its thing in there, I feel like it worked.”

Hembree said he’s been ramping up his throwing, and Tuesday he stretched it out to 120 feet.

Display of power

Triston Casas is the first Red Sox minor leaguer to hit 20 homers in a season as a teenager since Xander Bogaerts did it in Single and Double A in 2012. Casas spent most of the year with Single A Greenville before being promoted to high-A Salem on Sunday.