The Boston Red Sox couldn’t figure out what to do with Matt Barnes last season. The plan is to avoid a similar situation in 2016.
Barnes flip-flopped between the bullpen and the rotation — with Triple-A Pawtucket and with Boston — throughout 2015, much to the right-hander’s detriment. But Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski revealed Tuesday on WEEI’s “Hot Stove Show” that a plan already is in place for Barnes to report to spring training as a reliever, so perhaps a smoother campaign is on the horizon.
“With Matt Barnes, our plans are for him to come to spring training, and we’ve already talked to him about this, and really focus in on the bullpen, to try to help us with that power arm out there,” Dombrowski said. “(Red Sox prospect) Pat Light is pitching winter ball in Puerto Rico, and he’s just started to pitch. You never can tell when those guys take that step to really be that important arm. Ideally, you want to have somebody out there that can strike out a hitter with above-average stuff.”
Barnes posted a 5.44 ERA in 32 appearances (two starts) spanning 43 innings with the Red Sox last season. He finished with a 4.06 ERA in 17 appearances (five starts) spanning 37 2/3 innings with Pawtucket. The 25-year-old has good life to his fastball, though, and it’s reasonable to wonder whether his stuff eventually will play up in the bullpen, especially if he finally settles into a consistent role.
“Other than premium guys that are your premium closers, there’s so much inconsistency in bullpen performances throughout the years. So the good arm just doesn’t settle, because you can have a good arm and still get hit,” Dombrowski said of building a bullpen. “The projection of stuff, command, secondary stuff, the ability to deal with the pressures of closing. And I think sometimes you have to look at the year before. Was somebody overworked? Were there any injury factors? You have to look at all of those things and hopefully make wise decisions that end up working for you.”
A lot of uncertainty surrounds Boston’s bullpen this offseason, as Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa really are the only consistent performers slated to return. And even they endured some hiccups in 2015. An effective Barnes would go a long way toward solving a major need.
It’s no wonder the Sox are trying to hammer down his role well before reporting to camp.
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