The Boston Red Sox didn’t necessarily need to sign Chris Capuano at the beginning of spring training. But there might come a point this season when the Red Sox really reap the benefits of bringing in the veteran left-hander.
The Red Sox easily could have turned a blind eye to the opening created by Ryan Dempster’s departure. The Sox already had five starting pitchers in place, and Boston’s surplus of young starters is well-documented. Adding depth and versatility never hurts, though, and Capuano has been impressive thus far during spring training.
“He uses all of his pitches,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Fort Myers after Thursday’s loss to the New York Yankees. “He’s not afraid to thrown in on right-handers with his fastball. He’s got a good mix to throttle some hitters back and forth with fastballs and changeups. He continues to make quality pitches. He’s been very good.”
Capuano tossed three no-hit innings against the Yankees at JetBlue Park on Thursday, and he now owns a 2.45 ERA over 11 innings in four spring training appearances. The 35-year-old threw an additional 25-30 pitches in the Red Sox’s bullpen after Thursday’s outing as the club continues to stretch him out.
“We want to be sure that we get enough repetition, enough pitches thrown, that in the event that he’s got a spot start, we’re not taking a guy who hasn’t at least gotten up to 70 pitches in a spring training outing,” Farrell said.
Capuano will begin the season in the Red Sox’s bullpen — barring something unforeseen — and Boston would prefer that he stays there, as it would mean everyone is healthy and pitching well. There inevitably will come a point this season, however, when the Red Sox will need a spot start, and Capuano gives Boston a viable veteran starting option in addition to providing the club with a third left-handed arm out of the ‘pen. (Or second, if Craig Breslow isn’t ready for the beginning of the regular season.)
The Red Sox’s next crop of starting pitchers — most notably, Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes and Henry Owens — is promising. There’s value in adding someone like Capuano despite the depth that already was in place, though, because the lefty can fulfill a role in the major league bullpen and (presumably) transition seamlessly into a starting role mid season without a roster move being a necessity. Workman, for example, is a spot start candidate, but the Red Sox would prefer to see him stick to one role in the minors rather than bounce back and forth between the big league rotation and bullpen, like he did in 2013.
Capuano’s solid start to spring training hardly validates the Red Sox’s decision to sign the West Springfield, Mass., native. It’s encouraging for a club that ultimately could ask a lot of him, though.