Spring Training Battles: Bullpen Pt. 2

Bullpen Picstitch

If you missed part 1 click here: http://orderonthecourtsports.com/2014/03/03/spring-training-battles-bullpen-pt-1/


Andrew Miller: As mentioned above, Miller was out for the season after needing surgery on his foot. He is a big, powerful lefty out of the bullpen and posted an improved 2.64 ERA from his prior two years with Boston in 30.2 innings before he was sidelined. Contract-wise, Miller will receive roughly $2 million this year in his final year before free agency. Chances are he will stick to the roster as he has developed into a reliable 7th inning reliever and the Red Sox are looking to see what he can do coming off of his injury.

Craig Breslow: Another lefty out of the bullpen, Breslow put it all together last putting up a 1.81 ERA and making 61 appearances. He raised his stock even more in the postseason, in which he allowed zero earned runs in his first eight appearances and  become the most reliable late inning reliever. Currently, Breslow is in the last year of a two year contract he signed last winter that will pay him around $3 million anually. He should have a spot secured as an a 7th or 8th inning reliever in the bullpen.

Junichi Tazawa: He put a decent season last year, but left the ball in the strike zone a little too much gave up 70 hits in only 68 innings. The one positive in this is he only granted 12 walks, but still allowed more base runners than most managers would like. He also had a tendency when he  came in with men on base to let up a hit before retiring the next batters. He is now in his first arbitration year and will get paid slightly above $1 million this year. He should survive the roster cuts, but he will face serious competition as a late inning reliever.


Edward Mujica: The Red Sox signed Mujica, who for most of the season was the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals to a two year contract worth $9 million, but they are paying him for what he did in the first five months of the season in which he posted a 1.73 ERA and collected 35 saves. He seemed to lose it in the month of September allowing 9 runs in 7 innings and lost his closing job. He only appeared once in the postseason, against the Dodgers in the NCLS and allowed a home run in his one inning. The Red Sox are relying on Mujica going back to mid-season self in which he was one of the best closers. It seems likely that Mujica will pitch out of a set-up role in the eight inning and could take over as closer if Uehara misses time to injury.

Burke Badenhop: Outside of Jonathan Herrera, Badenhop has probably been the most overlooked acquisition this offseason. The Red Sox swapped minor league pitcher Luis Ortega for Badenhop with the Brewers early in the winter to add to their bullpen depth. This transaction didn’t gain too much attention because the Red Sox traded someone most hadn’t heard of and received a reliever from the Brewers, that even fewer people had heard of. Ultimately, it is not clear what role Badenhop could play in the Red Sox bullpen, but he was a very reliable middle reliever pitching 62.1 innings in 63 appearances to the tune of a 3.47 ERA. He will earn roughly $2 million avoiding arbitration in his final year before free agency. Whether or not he makes the roster, will largely depend on his performance in Spring Training unlike the previous relievers mentioned who are likely to have a spot saved for them.

Chris Capuano: After the announcement was made that Ryan Dempster would not pitch in 2014, the Red Sox went out and signed Chris Capuano for a one year $2.5 million that can reach as high as $5 million with incentives. This signing is part of a childhood dream for Capuano, who grew up in West Springfield rooting for the Red Sox. He made 20 starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year and had an ERA of 4.26. He figures to fill a swingman role in the bullpen, going multiple innings if needed and getting occasional starts in case a regular starter is injured or has to skip a start. Capuano will see a lot of innings this year whether filling in for a starter or coming out of the bullpen.


Brandon Workman: The Red Sox have two rookies in camp that have a legitimate shot to push out one of the previously named relievers for a spot in the bullpen. One of those rookies is right hander Brandon Workman. He was overlooked last year as a pitching prospect due to the abundance of other young arms that include Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, and Matt Barnes. Workman is still projected to be a starter in his future, but he is more than willing to pitch out of the bullpen if it would earn him a roster spot. He had a few stints at the professional level last year and despite struggling heavily in September with a 7.00 ERA, he was put on the postseason roster where he shined. In 8.2 playoff innings, he did not allow a single earned run receiving some well deserved popularity from the fans. Workman showed that he had the capability to pitch at the major league level, the only question is will it be enough to earn him a roster spot out of Spring Training. Chances are that the Red Sox leave him at AAA Pawtucket to start the year, but he will be the first man up if an injury occurs.

Drake Britton: The lefty quickly turned his season around, after getting arrested for a DUI in Spring Training of 2013. Britton made 17 starts between AA and AAA posting a 3.77 ERA, which was good enough to get the call to the major league team in July. He didn’t allow a run in his first 9 innings and finished the year with a 3.86 ERA. Although he is a starter by trade, the Red Sox seem to profile Britton as a reliever given how successful he was in this role last year. Britton is considered to be a longshot to make the roster this year, especially because of the new presence of Chris Capuano who is in the same role as Britton ideally would fill. This makes it very likely that Britton will start the year in Pawtucket and could potentially make a return to the major league roster at some point in 2014.

In recap, six relievers seem to have a role already geared towards him. Koji Uehara– closer, Edward Mujica– set up man, Craig Breslow– set up man, Junichi Tazawa– middle reliever, Andrew Miller– middle reliever, Chris Capuano– long reliever/spot starter

There will be fierce competition for that last bullpen spot between Burke Badenhop, Brandon Workman, and Drake Britton, it’s up to each to prove in Spring Training that they have what it takes to get that last roster spot, but who will it go to?

Spring Training Battles: Bullpen Pt. 1

Bullpen Picstitch

Can you name each of the Red Sox relievers show in the picture above? Answers at the bottom.

The Red Sox enter Spring Training returning with an even stronger bullpen than last year, which now carries more depth. The 2013 season got off to a rocky start with Joel Hanrahan being named closer. He only ended up pitching 7.1 innings allowing eight runs and blowing two saves before the announcement was made that he would be out for the season due torn muscle in his right arm. Then, manager John Farrell tabbed Andrew Bailey as the replacement closer. Although Bailey was an improvement to Hanrahan, he still struggled and blew five saves in his short stint as closer, before he too would be declared out for the season, caused by labrum and capsule damage to his shoulder. This injury came on the heels of a season-ending injury to  another key reliever, Andrew Miller, who required foot surgery that would not allow him to pitch again in 2013. This  crippled a Red Sox bullpen that had quickly lost its abundant depth. That’s when the more-overlooked at the time, Koji Uehara stepped in as closer and was lights out. Uehara recorded one of the best seasons as a closer baseball has seen, allowing only nine runs in 74.1 innings. He also put up one of the best runs a closer from August 21st to September 13th, in which he pitched 12 innings without allowing a runner to reach base, the closer’s equivalent of a perfect game and then some.  Uehara, who was originally signed for $4.5 million in the offseason, was projected to be extra depth in the bullpen coming out of Spring Training. What’s more is the medical staff was worried about overuse, pitching as a 38 year old, nevertheless, he helped guide the Red Sox to the playoffs and was named ALCS MVP, appearing in five games against Detroit, saving four and winning a fifth. When General Manager Ben Cherington signed him to a contract last year, he cleverly included an option that would trigger if Uehara pitched in 35 games. So, Red Sox fans can rest assured that when the final cuts for the 25 man roster come at the end of Spring Training, Koji will be safe. As for the eight others competing for what is presumably six other bullpen spots, they don’t necessarily have this same guarantee. Here’s the breakdown, these eight others include:

Returners: Andrew Miller, Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara

Acquisitions: Edward Mujica, Chris Capuano, Burke Badenhop

Rookies: Brandon Workman, Drake Britton

In the next post, each reliever will be summarized with a projection on their chances of making the 25 man roster and where they could land in the bullpen.

Answer Key (from left to right):

Top: Breslow, Tazawa, Mujica, Uehara

Bottom: Britton, Workman, Capuano, Badenhop, Miller