The Boston Red Sox season is a day away (thanks to Thursday’s postponement), and still, they haven’t “decided” on a closer.
That appears to be by design.
After retooling their bullpen in the offseason, the Red Sox have a few late-inning options this season. Matt Barnes long has been a high-leverage guy for the Sox, while new addition Adam Ottavino has shouldered that role throughout his career, especially with the Colorado Rockies.
Both have been told to be ready for the late innings, though neither is getting the designation of “closer.”
In the traditional sense, at least.
“They’re going to be very important in the eighth and ninth,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Thursday morning. “I don’t want to handcuff them mentally or physically … Talking to both of them, they know they’re going to get important outs in the last two innings.”
The reality is that traditional closers as we know them are few and far between nowadays, and that the usage of relievers is changing with each passing day. You can thanks Kevin Cash and the 2018 Tampa Bay Rays for that, or even Terry Francona with his usage of Andrew Miller in the Cleveland Indians’ 2016 playoff run. Whatever the case, guys seem increasingly accustomed to their roles being flexible.
With both the pitching staff and position players, the Red Sox are loaded with versatility. As a result, they project to pretty heavily be a matchup-based team. So, it makes sense that, depending on who is coming up in the late innings, Barnes might get the ninth one night and Ottavino the other.
Another thing to watch is the transition to the big leagues for Hirokazu Sawamura, who was used in late-inning roles in his native Japan but is now embarking on his first North American season.
No matter what, the Red Sox have options. And that, of course, is a good thing.
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