Red Sox Notes: Bullpen Comes Up Huge In Boston’s Win Over Blue Jays

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Boston Red Sox pitcher Hector Velazquez

Photo via Kim Klement./USA TODAY Sports Images

The Boston Red Sox bullpen has been heavily criticized throughout the season — and sometimes for good reason.

But Boston’s relievers deserve enormous credit for how they performed in Sunday’s 5-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Drew Pomeranz started the game for Boston but exited in the fifth inning after surrendering three runs without recording an out. From that point on, Hector Velazquez, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree and Joe Kelly combined to shutout the Jays and secure the win. Velazquez was particularly important, as the righty minimized the damage in the fifth and wound up throwing two scoreless innings.

“You’ve got to give credit to (Barnes) and Heath, and Hector, obviously,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said after the game, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “That’s was amazing what they did.”

Cora knows that these types of bullpen-heavy games are where he’ll earn his money as a skipper.

“When I look back … managing at the big-league level is not that easy,” Cora said. “Because there’s certain days where there’s nothing you can do. You want to match-up, and you have to trust your guys.

“We did today and we won.”

Boston’s pen got a ton of work over the 10-game road trip, which the Sox finished with a 6-4 record. As a result, neither Carson Smith or Craig Kimbrel were available Sunday afternoon. In Kimbrel’s place, Kelly took the ball in the ninth and picked up his second save of the season.

Is Boston’s bullpen perfect? Absolutely not, and it could use an addition or two. But games like Sunday’s prove the team’s relievers can be trusted when called upon.

Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Blue Jays:

— Speaking of additions, help could be on the way in the form of Tyler Thornburg.

The righty setup man, who’s working his way back from shoulder surgery, has yet to pitch in a regular-season game since Boston acquired him via trade from the Milwaukee Brewers before the 2017 offseason. But Thornburg currently is on a rehab stint in Triple-A Pawtucket, and his Red Sox debut could be right around the corner.

“Everything feels good right now,” Thornburg said Saturday, via The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham. ” … Right now we’re just trying to make sure that when I do come back, I’m not being a detriment to the bullpen.”

— Second baseman Dustin Pedroia also is on the comeback trail.

He’ll begin a rehab assignment Monday in Pawtucket, where he hasn’t played since a two-game rehab in 2010.

— The Red Sox have worn out right-handed starters this season.

— The Red Sox experienced another base-running gaffe Sunday when Brock Holt was caught trying to steal third base in the ninth inning.

While Cora understands his players are aggressive in nature, he knows they need to be more disciplined.

“We need to address that,” Cora said after the game. “Actually, I was thinking about it, I was like, ‘if it’s a straight steal, he has it.’ But the delay … If we’re gonna go, we better be safe.

” … I know it’s in their DNA, but I think little by little, they understand that the value of the out is worth more than just taking a gamble.

— Prior to Saturday’s game against Toronto, a group of coaches, including Jason Varitek, led Blake Swihart through an “extensive” workout behind the plate, per Abraham. Swihart has yet to make a start at catcher this season.

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