BOSTON -- Now that the Red Sox have addressed their starting rotation needs -- with the acquisition of Drew Pomeranz and a much-improved performance from Eduardo Rodriguez -- another leak has sprung.
In the last two weeks, the Red Sox have placed three key bullpen arms on the disabled list. Junichi Tazawa, who had a shoulder injury, has been sidelined since July 3, though he's expected to be activated Friday. Craig Kimbrel, who underwent knee surgery, will be sidelined until well until August. And today they placed Koji Uehara on the DL because of a right pectoral strain that forced him out of Tuesday night's game after seven pitches.
It's unknown how serious the setback is, but it's safe to say Uehara will be unavailable for at least a little while.
Here it is, late July, and the Red Sox are, for the time being, without their three best relievers.
That means there's a good chance that Dave Dombrowski may have to re-assess his position from the night he landed Pomeranz, when he said the Red Sox were likely done with any significant trades with the deadline still 12 days away.
The earlier deal that netted them Brad Ziegler from Arizona looms even more significant now. Not only as Ziegler been highly effective in his set-up role to date with three scoreless appearances, but he may be asked to take on a bigger role with the absences of Kimbrel, Tazawa and Uehara.
For the time being, expect Ziegler to handle the closing duties, with Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree as the primary high-leverage options in the seventh and eighth innings.
Should Uehara require a stint on the DL, the Sox could replace him by speeding up Joe Kelly's return to the big-league roster. Kelly has been impressive as he transitions to the bullpen in Pawtucket, though he has little experience pitching in relief in the big leagues.
There's also the matter of roster spots. When the Sox activate Tazawa later this week, they'll face a tough call in creating space. Their choices would seem to come down to cutting ties with Clay Buchholz -- either dealing him, designating him for assignment or releasing him altogether -- or optioning Hembree to the minors.
Before Uehara got hurt Tuesday night, the Hembree option made the most sense, if for no other reason that it allowed the Sox to continue to control all the pitchers in question. Hembree has pitched well and deserves to stay, but as one of just two pitchers in the bullpen with remaining options -- Barnes is the other -- he might be a victim of the numbers game.
More interesting is what the Red Sox intend to do with Buchholz.
While he's done little to inspie confidence at any point this season with a 5.91 ERA and a WHIP of 1.488, Buchholz is, for now, the only depth starting option in the entire organization. Would the Sox let him go without having any suitable insurance in the event something happens to one of their five starters?
The situation will be clarified later Wednesday, when more is learned about the severity of Uehara's condition. But either way, the Sox face some tough calls and, perhaps, a commitment to sacrifice additional prospects in a deal for more bullpen help before the deadline.