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.