Ben Cherington Would Like to Get Bullpen Help From Within, But Red Sox’ Internal Options Limited


July 9, 2013

Alex WilsonRed Sox general manager Ben Cherington is going to be a busy guy in the next few weeks, and it would make sense that adding to the bullpen would be the GM’s top priority before July 31.

Of course, he’s not alone in that potential pursuit. Everyone wants relievers at this time of year — particularly those who throw from the left side. That’s usually preferred for clubs that already have strong bullpens. For the Red Sox, though, who are working with a patchwork bullpen that has been hampered by injury and blatant ineffectiveness, the pressure to add a reliever would appear to be even more intensified.

Cherington is taking the stance that he’d like to find reinforcement within his organization.

“We have to strike the right balance in the middle,” he told reporters prior to Monday night’s loss in Seattle. “I do think it lends to the point that if you can find solutions internally, that’s always the better way to go.”

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, at least not for him to say such. The market isn’t exactly filled with power arms out of the bullpen, and sounding desperate would only drive those prices up in the eyes of rival general managers dealing with Cherington and the Sox.

However, those same rival execs have access to Boston’s roster, too. They know that Andrew Miller is hurt and is likely out for the season. They’re aware of Andrew Bailey‘s ineffectiveness. They’re aware that Craig Breslow is currently the only lefty reliever on the Red Sox’ major league roster. They know that Alfredo Aceves could be certifiably insane and thus can’t be trusted for long periods of time. Maybe most importantly, they know that the Red Sox don’t exactly have a pipeline of young arms ready to step in, either — if they did, those arms would be here already.

Everyone else knows all of this.

So it’s going to make things difficult for Cherington and the Sox over the next month or so. If the Red Sox want to, however, they could turn to the farm, but again, the options are limited.

Rubby De La Rosa
This wouldn’t be De La Rosa’s first taste of the majors, and it certainly wouldn’t be his last. While he’s working as a starter right now, he’d certainly be able to move to the pen if called up. He’s averaged a strikeout per inning for his minor league career, so he has shown the ability to miss bats. And while he’s a right-handed hurler, left-handed hitters actually have a worse batting average against him than right-handed hitters. However, 18 of De La Rosa’s 27 walks this season have come against lefties.

Drake Britton
Britton has already jumped once this season, as he was just recently promoted to Triple-A. What’s most intriguing about Britton, though, is the fact that he throws from the left side. Left-handed hitters hit just .187 against Britton at Double-A Portland, but the Red Sox also said last week that they intend to keep Britton a starter for now. Some feel, though, that Britton’s future may be as a reliever anyway. If that’s the case, it might make sense.

Brandon Workman
The tall right-hander has been very impressive at Pawtucket this season, where he’s missing bats in his first stint at that level. Workman is also being used as a starter right now, where he has 34 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings since being called up.

Ryan Rowland-Smith
Rowland-Smith would seem to be the logical fit for the big club. He’s pitched 43 2/3 innings — all out of the bullpen — this season, and he’s been incredibly effective. He’s got a 1.03 ERA, and he’s held opposing hitters to a .175 average. Here’s the thing: Rowland-Smith just had an emergency appendectomy, and Cherington said the reliever will be out until late July.

The other guys
There are other potential options in Pawtucket in the forms of Pedro Beato, Anthony Carter and Clayton Mortensen. However, Beato has yet to prove he can get big leaguers out on a consistent basis, and the same goes for Mortensen. Carter is pitching well as a reliever right now, having allowed two runs in his last 8 1/3 innings of work, but he also doesn’t have any major league experience. Carter would also have to be added to the 40-man roster as well. At the big league level, Alex Wilson and Jose De La Torre aren’t showing they can be anything more than mop-up guys at this point.

At this point, the best solution for Cherington and the Boston front office may be a combination of finding help from within and also through the trade market. A name like Matt Thornton has popped up recently. While he’s not the pitcher he used to be, he can at least throw a baseball at the major league level with his left arm.

It’s not an enviable position for the Red Sox, but if they’re going to continue to contend down the stretch, they’re going to need to retool that bullpen in some shape or form.

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