Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and other members of the Red Sox’ bullpen have been great — just not so great that Boston wants to lean on them to the point that they get worn out.
Keeping the relief staff fresh was one big reason the Red Sox were ready to call up left-handed reliever Craig Breslow and send Andrew Bailey to the 15-day disabled list Monday with a biceps strain. Bailey has been dealing with the arm injury since April 29, but the Red Sox were waiting to put him on the DL until the team could determine the extent of his injury, hoping that he could come back within a few days.
With Bailey out of play for at least another week and Breslow arriving to help, the bullpen situation has cleared up somewhat. Uehara (2.63 ERA, 17 strikeouts in 15 games) and Tazawa (2-1, 2.51 ERA, 18 strikeouts in 16 appearances), who are among league leaders in appearances this season, won’t have to be the prime shutdown relievers any longer. Left-hander Andrew Miller gets another southpaw to help him in relief.
Perhaps the biggest boost from the move, however, is that Joel Hanrahan gets another opportunity to build his confidence. Hanrahan came off a disabled-list stay of his own April 30, but the Red Sox’ original closer fell behind Bailey on the depth chart of closer duties after Bailey posted a dominating stretch during Hanrahan’s absence. Now, with Bailey out, Hanrahan will be the closer and have more of a chance to get his game back to form.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said Monday afternoon that Hanrahan is definitely the new closer, but he said the bigger element in Hanrahan getting back on track is that Hanrahan is finally feeling healthy, which should help him not only physically but also mentally in attacking the role.
Farrell was most happy to have an extra reliever in his bullpen after patching together the last week.
“We’ve got a fresh arm in our bullpen, which given a lot of the usage of Junichi and Koji, hopefully to take some of the workload and the pressure off those two guys,” Farrell said.
He also spoke to the versatility of Breslow, a lefty, to get batters out on both sides of the plate.
“He’s a guy that takes almost a starter’s approach to shorter outings,” Farrell said, saying he’ll be proactive in using Breslow against right-handed hitters.
Breslow, 32, started the season on the disabled list with shoulder tendonitis He has been pitching in Triple-A Pawtucket, logging a 2.45 ERA and four strikeouts in four games. He joined the Red Sox last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on July 31 and went 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 23 appearances for the team.
Hanrahan has pitched just 6 2/3 innings this year with a 9.45 ERA, but much of his struggles were attributed to the hamstring injury he attempted to play through before heading to the disabled list April 13.
Bailey is 1-0 with five saves and a 1.46 ERA in 13 appearances for the Red Sox. He has notched 20 strikeouts this year, good for sixth among American League relievers.