When the lights have been at their brightest and the game on the line, the Boston Red Sox have had the privilege of having some of the best relief pitchers in history sitting in their bullpen.
Here are five of the best relievers to ever represent the Red Sox:
5. Craig Kimbrel, 2016-2018
It took a haul of four prospects for Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to acquire Kimbrel before the 2016 season, but the star closer proved to be well worth it. In 187 games with the Red Sox, Kimbrel recorded a 2.44 ERA. He was named an MLB All-Star in all three of his seasons in Boston. The right-hander’s 2017 campaign was the most dominant of all, though. Kimbrel pitched 69 innings in 67 games with a 1.43 ERA behind 126 strikeouts and 14 walks.
4. Bob Stanley, 1977-1989
Stanley spent all 13 of his major league seasons with the Red Sox. His 637 games played are the most of any pitcher in franchise history and he ranks second behind only Jonathan Papelbon in saves (132) with the ballclub. A native of New England after being born in Portland, Maine, Stanley won 115 games, though he was more productive in relief than he was in the starting rotation. Stanley, who was a two-time All-Star, saved as many as 33 games in 1983, which were far and away the most in his career. He concluded with a 3.64 ERA and 693 strikeouts in 1,707 innings.
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3. Koji Uehara, 2013-2016
Uehara will be best remembered for his contributions during Boston’s run to the 2013 World Series, and for good reason. During that 2013 regular season, Uehara was 4-1 with a 1.09 ERA and 0.56 WHIP. But he was even better in the postseason, allowing just one run in 13 2/3 innings with 16 strikeouts and zero walks for a head-scratching 0.66 ERA. He was named the MVP of the ALCS after Boston defeated the Detroit Tigers in six games. Those weren’t the only highlights of the Japanese standout, however. Uehara was tabbed an MLB All-Star the next year as he finished the 2014 campaign with a 2.52 ERA in 64 games. He concluded his four seasons in Boston with a 2.19 ERA to go with 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings, having just one season where his ERA surpassed 3.00.
2. Dick Radatz, 1962-1966
The first true closer the Red Sox ever had, the right-handed Radatz played five seasons for the ballclub and compiled a 3.13 ERA in 557 1/3 innings with 102 saves. Radatz, also known as “The Monster” or “Moose,” wasn’t the prototypical closer, though, as he had 10 relief appearances of five innings or more during his first four seasons for Boston. He finished fifth in MVP voting in 1962 and ninth for the award in 1964.
1. Jonathan Papelbon, 2005-2011
Papelbon was named an MLB All-Star six times over the course of his career, four of those nods coming in consecutive years (2006-2009) when he was the closer of the Red Sox. Papelbon compiled 219 saves for Boston, which is nearly 100 more than the second-closest pitcher. No Red Sox fan will ever forget his fiery entertainment, especially his look upon recording the final strikeout in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series. He recorded a 0.92 ERA in 68 1/3 innings during his rookie season in 2006 and followed it up with 1.85 ERA in both 2007 (58 1/3 innings) and 2009 (68 innings). His 41 saves during the 2008 campaign were the most he ever recorded in a single season. Over the course of his seven seasons in Boston, Papelbon struck out 509 batters and walked just 115.
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