BOSTON — Tommy Layne is giving the Red Sox something to think about.
Layne has been a very reliable left-handed option at the back end of Boston’s bullpen since being recalled following the club’s flurry of trade deadline moves. His performance down the stretch could weigh on the minds of the Red Sox when they construct their 2015 bullpen.
“With each passing outing, he puts another notch in it to say that he’s answered the question or he’s answered the opportunity,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Saturday’s game against the Houston Astros at Fenway Park. “He’s making a strong case for himself as we look to see what’s currently here and what we may come across being available in the offseason.”
Layne was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on Aug. 1. The 29-year-old southpaw essentially assumed the role vacated by lefty Andrew Miller, who was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. Layne’s nine major league appearances this season have come in a variety of situations, but the common thread has been success.
“It’s been an opportunity that’s been presented to him, and he’s making the most of it,” Farrell said. “Anytime we have that matchup situation, he’s a guy that we personally have not been reluctant to go to, and he continues to execute.”
Layne recorded his third hold of the season in Friday’s 5-3, extra-inning loss. He entered with two on and no outs in the eighth inning and promptly struck out Jason Castro and Jon Singleton — a pair of left-handed hitters — before handing the keys to right-hander Burke Badenhop.
Left-handers were hitting .067 (1-for-15) against Layne entering Saturday. Right-handers haven’t fared much better, hitting just .111 (1-9).
“The biggest thing is he’s thrown consistent strikes, and in a matchup like (Friday’s), even though there’s a couple of men on base, he’s responded — whether it’s been at home, whether it’s been on the road — in some tight spots,” Farrell said. “So in short order, he’s earned our trust and continues to execute. Our experience with him, which goes back to the start of spring training, has been very consistent and productive throughout.”
Obviously, the sample size with Boston is small. But Layne, who owns a 1.23 ERA (one earned run in 7 1/3 innings) this season, also thrived at Pawtucket before being called up earlier this month.
Layne went 5-1 with a 1.50 ERA (eight earned runs in 48 innings) over 37 appearances with the PawSox. He converted all 11 of his save opportunities, held opponents to a .173 batting average (29-for-168) and even earned International League All-Star honors.
Layne was particularly tough on lefties at Triple-A, holding them to a .138 average (8-for-59), which is something that could become an extremely valuable asset in Boston, where Miller is long gone and Craig Breslow continues to struggle.
When Layne signed with the Red Sox last November, Boston was flush with left-handed relievers — Miller, Breslow, Franklin Morales and Drake Britton — on its 40-man roster. He never let that stop him, though, and a solid spring training served as a springboard toward even bigger things in 2014.
Layne joined the Red Sox organization as a relative unknown deprived of a big league opportunity. He’s now on pace to enter the offseason as a legitimate contender for a sustained major league role in 2015.
Photo via Twitter/@JeffPini