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Monday, April 16, 2012

As Roles Are Defined, Red Sox Bullpen Coming Together

After gut wrenching losses in the season opening series against the Detroit Tigers and the "Bash Brothers", the biggest question mark for the Red Sox was their battered bullpen. Injury to the presumed closer Andrew Bailey put the bullpen in a state of flux with several moving parts and we know how that turned out.

Two blown saves in one game by Mark Melancon and Alfredo Aceves on Opening Day, followed by a walk-off homer by Alex Avila in Game 3 caused panic in Red Sox Nation and--although not publicly--it's safe to say Bobby Valentine lost some sleep trying to figure out where to go with his bullpen.

Then the series in Toronto rolled around.

The Red Sox lost 2 out of 3 but something important happened in the midst of that series. After the walk-off loss in Detroit, Aceves delivered a note to Bobby Valentine's desk with one word on it--"trust", and that's exactly what the new manager did.

When the Red Sox took a 6-4 lead into the ninth inning against the Jays no one was really sure where Bobby V would go to get the final three outs and seal the teams first win of the young season. Not too many would have blamed him if he had given someone else the save opportunity but he didn't, instead he "trusted" that Alfredo could get the job done.

Aceves came out and displayed a swing and miss fastball that touched the high-90's and set the Jays down in order for his first save and the Sox' first win of the season. The team would go on to lose the next two but the first game proved to be the most important.

Since that walk-off loss in Detroit, Aceves has pitched three scoreless innings and brought his ERA from uncomputable to a solid 9.00. Franklin Morales has essentially won the eighth inning job for now and Vicente Padilla looks like the middle reliever.

The Red Sox bullpen has allowed just 1 ER in 7 IP through the first three games against the Tampa Bay Rays. That run came on a Ben Zobrist solo homer off Mark Melancon in the Sox' 12-2 blowout.

Bullpen's can be a funky thing as we've seen over and over in baseball. You just never know who will emerge where from one season to the next but it looks like Bobby V and the Red Sox have found an alignment that works. 

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