One of the major topics of discussion leading into the postseason for the Red Sox is how manager John Farrell will handle the bullpen before getting to closer Koji Uehara. The middle relievers have struggled of late, as in the month of September relievers besides Uehara and Craig Breslow had a combined ERA of 6.27.
It seems as if the plan for the bullpen is to rely on the group as a whole for individual matchups, rather than individuals working whole innings.
“We have the ability to matchup to bridge from whoever the starter is on that given night to Koji closing things out,” Farrell said. “We have got options and guys have been very dependable and durable. Whether that’s been [Breslow], [Junichi Tazawa], who has done a very good job for us, and at times there have been some very challenging moments for them. The emergence of Brandon Workman has been very encouraging his last outing in Baltimore coming off the outing in Denver. So, we feel like we have got ample options to go to.
“Frankin Morales’ last six weeks of the season have been very encouraging and we put some veteran presence in that role back there with Ryan Dempster to bridge to Koji.”
Looking back, the Sept. 3 game against the Tigers at Fenway Park gives a glimpse of how the bullpen might look in one of the postseason games. The game pinned elite starters Jon Lester and Max Scherzer against one another, which saw the Sox come away with a 2-1 win in as close to a playoff game as you can get in the regular season.
Lester went seven innings, and then in the eighth Farrell went to his pitching matchups against the heart of the Tigers lineup. Workman (righty) came on and retired Miguel Cabrera (righty). Then, with Prince Fielder (lefty) and Victor Martinez (switch) coming up, Breslow (lefty) came on to retire Fielder and then gave up a single to Martinez. Omar Infante (righty) followed so Farrell went to the bullpen again and called on Tazawa (righty) who struck him up to retire the side. Uehara came on for a 1-2-3 ninth for the save to complete the win.
"If we weren't in that part of the order, we probably would have gone with one guy to go through the eighth inning,” Farrell said at the time. “It just so happened that the situation called for the matchups."
It’s likely those types of situations will arise in the ALDS against the Rays and the team will be ready. Workman, Tazawa, Dempster will in all likelihood go against righties, and Felix Doubront (.247 against lefties) and Morales (.184) will go against lefties, with Breslow going against both (.208 against righties, .253 against lefties).
“This is what you dream about, this is the reason why you play baseball and pitch in the postseason and play meaningful games in October,” Breslow said. “I think collectively we have a group of guys that believe in each other and believe in ourselves and we’re anxious to get these games going.”
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @Hannable84