Boston Red Sox

When it comes to his bullpen, Farrell throws away the book

When it comes to his bullpen, Farrell throws away the book

BOSTON — When Addison Reed arrived in Boston, Sox manager John Farrell named him the eighth-inning man. In Reed’s second appearance with his new team, he pitched the seventh.

In Thursday’s case, it’s a really good sign that Farrell said one thing and then did another.

The top of the White Sox order was due up with the scoring already finished in a 9-5 Red Sox win: Leury Garcia, Yolmer Sanchez and Jose Abreu. Reed got three groundouts on 11 pitches, eight strikes.

“Lineup,” Farrell said of his reasoning. “And Addison knows coming in here, it’s going to be seventh inning or later, but where we were with their speed at the top of the order, [Reed is] much better controlling the running game. And that was the choice between him and [Matt] Barnes at that point.”

Reed hasn't had a steal attempted against him all season. Barnes, meanwhile, came on for the eighth inning.

A rigid bullpen is not an optimal approach. Farrell's goal should be to find a balance between routine and flexibility. Use your best pitchers in the moments that matter most and vs. the hitters that are most dangerous, and do that without destroying your pitchers’ sense of comfort.

Farrell went down this road earlier in the year when he was turning to closer Craig Kimbrel more often in the eighth inning. That stopped for fear of burnout. Farrell and most managers do not seem comfortable using a closer for the eighth and not also giving him a chance at a save in the ninth — even if the eighth inning is where the game turns.

But Reed, a former closer who had 19 saves for the Mets, has been told he’ll be used at different spots. If Kimbrel simply has to be the ninth-inning, traditional closer, then the Red Sox have a powerful weapon in Reed — someone they can rely on in high leverage situations and move around with confidence. A relief ace, potentially.

“The seventh and eighth inning, we feel they’re interchangeable based on matchups, based on strengths of the individual guys,” Farrell said. 

Sounds like a manager who understands what his bullpen needs most.

Drellich: Health of Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez essential in final week

Drellich: Health of Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez essential in final week

BOSTON — Considering the Sox offense lacks the firepower of potential playoff opponents, significant health issues for key hitters going into the final week of the season is disconcerting.

Every other American League team that's clinched a postseason spot or is expected to stands in the top five for runs scored per game across the majors: the Astros, Yankees, Indians and Twins. The Sox are 10th. 

Every team is dealing with injuries. But the Sox are in a particularly precarious spot because of how they're built. 

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The regular-season results show the Sox have adapted well overall when Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez have missed time. But how much the Sox can get from those two in October is up in the air.

Nunez was in the lineup for the first time in 16 days Monday night at Fenway Park, a positive sign as he recovers from a ligament injury in his right knee.

He’s not exactly full go quite yet.

“It’s quicker than what it possibly could have been. You’re talking about a ligament damage to the PCL and I know it’s less severe than an ACL/MCL, but still it’s about pain tolerance,” Sox manager John Farrell said Monday. “It’s about managing it. His body has to recondition to take care of that. His muscles have to respond in a different way. … If he feels a little bit of a zinger, that’s going to go away. He’s not putting himself at further risk.

“Whether or not he’s a stolen base threat tonight versus growing into it over this final week — I would anticipate he’s going to have to test it more game speed than we’ve been able to simulate right now.”

Meanwhile, Dustin Pedroia, managing a left knee injury all season, was not in the lineup after a 1-for-26 road trip.

“When the knee starts to talk back to him a little bit, we’ve all got to listen to it and give him a down day,” Farrell said. “I would expect him to be back on the  field tomorrow.”

Farrell thought it reasonable to connect the knee to Pedroia’s recent poor performance hitting wise.

All year, resiliency has been a buzz word for Sox because of their propensity for late-inning comebacks. Sunday’s eighth-inning rally against the Reds was the latest example, leading to the Sox’ 42nd come-from-behind win. 

How they’ve dealt with a variety of health situations adds another layer to their reputation for handling adversity. Per spotrac.com, the Sox have had the fifth most disabled list days this season, 1,601. 

The Indians were doubted going into last year’s postseason because of health situations with their pitching. But it’d also be foolish to minimize the importance of Pedroia and Nunez, and how they look in this final week.

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Price can pitch with less rest, but unlikely to go back-to-back before playoffs

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Price can pitch with less rest, but unlikely to go back-to-back before playoffs

BOSTON -- It’s unlikely David Price will pitch in consecutive games in the regular season, and it doesn’t sound like manager John Farrell feels Price needs to do so in the postseason, either.

Nothing is ruled out, however.

“Initially it would be multi-innings,” Farrell said of Price's postseason role. “But if there was an outing in which it was one inning -- that’s not to limit the fact if he felt physically fine the next day, we could possibly use him. But in this final week, it's not an item that’s got to be checked, to get him on back-to-back days.”

Farrell said Price can already be used with fewer than four days rest, which is the interval starting pitchers use and is also the amount of rest Price had between his two appearances. Farrell said Price ideally would be used with fewer than four days rest some time this week.

“And you know what, he was available two days after he pitches two innings in Tampa,” Farrell said. “He pitched two innings in Tampa [on Sept. 17], was going to be a minimum of two days down. He was ready to pitch on Wednesday [on Sept. 19] in Baltimore. We got a one-sided game [that day], off-day Thursday. So yeah, I can tell you this right now, he’s ready for a better frequency than four days.”

Yet, at the same time, Price is likely going to have at least three days rest before his next outing. Farrell said he wants to stay away from him Monday.

Farrell said Price's role is usage-dependent.

“Likely wouldn't go to him tonight for another day of rest after 40 pitches [Friday]," Farrell said. "We would only pitch him back to back if there was an outing in which it was 12 pitches or less, and he was available the next night. But I think in the two outings in which he’s pitched, that's probably more the role that I envision. 

“Not to say that couldn't change going forward, but that was a big 2 2/3 innings the other night. It bridged the gap to Addison [Reed] and then to Craig [Kimbrel].”

Farrell on Monday noted that “Price has kind of allowed that bullpen to kind of fall in line a little bit more consistently.” Yet, if Price can’t pitch on consecutive days, that leaves open a question of how things go without Price available in the postseason.

Could the Sox get more out of Price if they pitch him in Games 2 and 3 of the Division Series, with one off-day in between for travel, rather than using him in Game 1? 

Maybe that’s the thinking. Because ideally, the Sox wouldn’t need Price for much length in a game Chris Sale starts, and Sale’s obviously going to be the Game 1 starter.