BOSTON — Quick. What’s the Red Sox’ biggest weakness?
A lot of you probably said their bullpen, and understandably so. The bridge to Koji Uehara has stood out in recent weeks as the biggest flaw on a team built on balance and consistency, and it’s the one area that’s a cause for concern going into the postseason. John Farrell is not among those concerned about the unit, though.
“We have the ability to match up. To bridge from whoever the starter is that given night to Koji closing things out, we’ve got options and guys have been very dependable [and] they’ve been durable,” Farrell said Tuesday. “Whether that’s been [Craig Breslow], whether that’s been Junichi [Tazawa], who’s done a very good job for us and at times there’s been some challenging moments for him, the emergence of Brandon Workman and what was an encouraging last outing in Baltimore — coming off the outing over in Denver. We feel like we’ve got ample options to go to. Franklin Morales’ last six weeks of the season have been very encouraging, and then we’ve put some veteran presence back there with Ryan Dempster in that role as well to bride to Koji.”
The Red Sox’ bullpen has the horses. It’s simply a matter of consistency, and there were hiccups beyond Uehara and Breslow. Tazawa stumbled in September. Morales has shown improvement of late, but still has control issues from time to time. Workman put together a couple of poor outings, and is still navigating uncharted waters as a rookie. Dempster, while a veteran presence, is still familiarizing himself with a relief role after spending a bulk of the season in the rotation. And Matt Thornton, a fringe player who could make the squad as a third left-handed reliever, hasn’t been much of a factor since being acquired from the White Sox in July.
The Red Sox aren’t screwed, by any means. Their starting pitching looks built for the postseason, and Boston’s offense has been terrific all year. But the bullpen will certainly need to rise to the occasion, and Farrell clearly thinks that the unit is up to the challenge.