Bullpen Becoming Strength for Red Sox After Early Season Struggles

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Bullpen Becoming Strength for Red Sox After Early Season Struggles

Editor's note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine's words. Each game day, we will select the best Valentine that sums up the day for the Red Sox.

The Red Sox entered Wednesday night's game with a league-worst 6.27 team ERA, but much of that damage was due to the bullpen boasting a league-worst 7.55 ERA of its own.

Early in the season, Boston's bullpen seemed to be just one disaster after another. Since the team headed out on their seven-game road trip, though, Red Sox relievers have been about as good as you'll get.

During Boston's three-game sweep in Minnesota, the Red Sox bullpen allowed just one earned run over 9 2/3 innings. The relievers also only gave up seven hits and walked one while striking out six batters over the stretch.

As effective as Daniel Bard was in the eighth inning on Monday night, there may be hope elsewhere across the pen for some solid late-inning relief. The combination of Vicente Padilla, Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves looked strong on Wednesday night. The trio struck out three while allowing just a single hit, and most importantly cooling off a potent Twins lineup that lit up the Red Sox for five runs in the sixth inning.

Manager Bobby Valentine expressed his approval in the bullpen's performance through some positive postgame commentary.

"I forgot about that [sixth] inning, because that seventh, eighth and ninth innings were all zeros," Valentine said when asked about the miserable five-run sixth. "The bats are alive and I think we're coming together."

The recent turn of the tides seems to indicate a potential shift in strengths for the Red Sox. The bullpen, which at one point this season was viewed as the weak link on the team, may finally be settling into its own and finding consistent roles for different members of the staff.

Boston's offense may have scored 24 runs over the three games in the Twin Cities, but it was the work of the Red Sox relief staff that deserves a lot of the credit for the sudden surge of confidence.

As the Red Sox move forward with the season, the bullpen will be a central cog to the team's success. So seeing the pen succeed in the present should only provide hope and instill confidence as Valentine and the Red Sox look towards a potential playoff push.

But in the meantime, Boston should take solace in boasting a bullpen that is no longer cringe-worthy.

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