In a span of just two days, the Red Sox went from having two proven closers on their active roster to having none.
First, Andrew Bailey was placed on the disabled list Monday with a biceps strain, ostensibly opening the door for Joel Hanrahan, the team’s closer when the season opened, to redeem himself after a month filled with injury and inconsistency. But the former Pirate joined Bailey on the shelf less than 24 hours later, and Boston’s bullpen — which was has been one of the team’s strengths through their hot start — suddenly looks very thin.
“After the MRI came back, it was clear that he has inflammation in the right forearm,” manager John Farrell said of Hanrahan’s injury. “There’s a strain to the right forearm. It’s probably going to be a period of time for a shut down and then a recovery for him, so that’s where Joel’s at right now.”
Farrell announced Tuesday that right-hander Junichi Tazawa, who has held down the seventh and eighth innings with fellow reliever Koji Uehara this season, will close games until either Bailey or Hanrahan is healthy enough to return. However, the Red Sox manager declined to give a timetable of when that may be.
Save for one rough outing in Toronto in which allowed a two-run home run and blew a save, Tazawa has been stellar out of the bullpen in his fourth season in Boston. The 26-year-old has allowed just 11 hits, three walks and four runs in 14 1/3 innings, posting an ERA of 2.51 and holding opponents scoreless in 13 of his 16 outings.
“It’s as much with the entire bullpen as it is with Junichi closing things out,” Farrell said. “Koji has done an excellent job in that seventh, eighth inning. With the addition of Craig Breslow in that mix, I feel like we have more guys to match up in that bridge to Junichi as a closer. And I like the fact that Junichi’s got power to his pitch mix. He’s been effective against lefties and righties, as well. I think the late-inning guys that we have here do a very good job of controlling the running game. So all things considered, Junichi is the choice.”
The injuries to the back of the bullpen will have consequences in the rotation, as well. Fourth starter Felix Doubront, who has experience as a reliever, will be moved to the pen beginning Tuesday, with 23-year-old Allen Webster starting in his place against the Twins on Wednesday. Webster, a hard-throwing right-handed prospect who came over from the Dodgers in last year’s Adrian Gonzalez–Carl Crawford–Josh Beckett trade, allowed five hits and two earned runs in his only big league outing to date, earning a no-decision in a loss to Kansas City on April 21. He is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in four starts with Triple-A Pawtucket this year.
“I think everyone looks forward to seeing that guy on the mound,” Farrell said of Webster. “He’s got great stuff. He showed he’s got very good poise in the first outing that he made for us. We’ll see it again [Wednesday] night.”
Doubront will work multi-inning situations in relief, with the plan being to return him to a starting role the next time through the rotation.