Joel Hanrahan went down when the season was less than a month old, then when Andrew Miller was established as their best reliever, he went down in early July, and when they got back from the All-Star Break Andrew Bailey essentially was done for the season.
Clay Buchholz hasn’t pitched since he won and went to 8-0 on June 8.
Jon Lester has won twice since then.
And here’s the positive: since Bucholz last pitched, the Red Sox are 20-14, the third best record in the league after the Indians and Rays. Their lead has increased from 1.5 games over the Yankees to 2.5 games, now over the charging Rays, who come to Fenway Park for a four-game series beginning Monday, July 22, a series whose Tuesday starter might be Brandon Workman, but then again might not.
“That,” says John Farrell, “is to be determined.”
Ben Cherington’s nature is to take responsibility for everything that has happened with this bullpen, having traded for Bailey, Mark Melancon, Joel Hanrahan and Matt Thornton, and now even signed two figures out of the Red Sox past, Brandon Lyon and Jose Contreras, the man who inspired Larry Lucchino’s infamous “Evil Empire” comment.
“I’ve made my share of mistakes,” says Cherington, who shares the traits of Hall of Famer Pat Gillick, who was visible when things went bad, invisible when things went well.
When asked about Bailey, et al, Cherington never asks for a review of the Koji Uehara signing, which has produced their closer who has 19 strikeouts, one run and eight saves since June 26.
“We now will revisit our ideas,” he said Friday night as the Red Sox opened their series with the injury-riddled Yankees, a rivalry that even without the injuries pales in comparison to that of Boston-Tampa Bay.
“But, as we do, this is an opportunity to see how some of our young pitchers can deal with the situations.”
Workman was originally brought up to be a major piece in the bullpen, but had to start in Oakland and took a no-hitter into the eighth. Rubby De La Rosa may go into the pen. Drake Britton, a lefthander with a 96-97 MPH fastball, is up and in that role.
“Someone will step in,” says one Boston official.
The Sox are looking for starters and relievers on the market.
So now they run down other checklists.
Will the Royals move Luke Hochevar, great stuff and a big year out of the pen?
Will the Twins move Mike Pelfrey, who the Mets always thought could be a power reliever?
“This was in many ways a year in which we were to find out who we are,” says Cherington. It is a team that has coped. It is a team with young pitching whose futures are TBD. It is a team with several prime talents close to the majors, specifically shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Garin Cecchini (a potential 70-75 extra base hit, high OBP presence in Fenway. It is a team Cherington wants to be faced by Dustin Pedroia, hence the ongoing talks about an extension.
But they cannot go anywhere in the playoffs without Buchholz. That simple.
So while they look around for relievers and hope the Mariners, Angels, Rockies, Brewers, White Sox and Royals will talk and maybe consider starters like Norris, Ervin Santana, Bruce Chen and the like, they will work to the deadline.
“We looked at Michael Young, but with Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks, we have other alternatives on the left side of the infield,” says one Sox official. “I’d say all our focus will be on pitching, beginning with what we have within.”