The Red Sox had a good weekend, overall. They hosted the Orioles in town, one of the worst teams in all of baseball, which says a lot in this era of ultra-bad teams and extreme tanking at the bottom of the standings. And while no one will go too far in praising them for beating a team like this, Boston certainly took care of the business and beat a team they were meant to beat. You have to beat the teams in front of you, and they did. The weekend was a big plus.
Except it wasn’t all good news because there was a bit of worry on Sunday. In the middle of that last game, Garrett Whitlock was called up for a multi-innings mid-innings appearance, and after a scoreless streak he had to be called out shortly after the start of his second inning. It cannot be stressed enough that, for now, as of this writing, all we know is that Whitlock suffered a tightness in his right pectoral muscle, which is of course the top side of his. body with which he throws. We don’t know how serious it is, or how long it will have to run out if it even needs to run out at all.
But even the possibility that Whitlock might have to miss a bit of time here in this crucial part of the season is enough to cause at least a small amount of panic. The rookie was, after all, probably their best reliever this season and was easily their most reliable arm in the second half. It’s hard not to think what this enclosure looks like without him. And really, that thought process got me started thinking about what this band looks like, even with Whitlock in the picture. Whichever way you cut it, it’s a bit messy, which isn’t the same as saying it’s bad in this context.
Like I said, right now Whitlock is their best arm and the guy they probably want in the most important situations. He came early against the Orioles a few times, but for me it was because the context of the showdown demanded it. The Boston Bats should be able to display twisted numbers against the Baltimore pitching staff, so Whitlock’s arrival while the game was still close early gave the Bats more time to sway. remove. In more competitive matches against better competition, I suspect the plan was and is for Whitlock to come later in the match.
So if it is necessary for Whitlock to run out of time, the first step for Alex Cora is to figure out who gets the most important innings. And it is important to note that we are talking about important rounds, not necessarily the ninth round. I think it’s pretty clear at this point that we’re not going to see a closer set the rest of the way. Adam Ottavino would seem to be the obvious candidate to be the closest to this accolade, but if there was a tough right-handed group to come in the eighth Cora certainly wouldn’t (and should) hesitate to use it, just as he wouldn’t hesitate to use Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor and / or Austin Davis if there was a group of lefties expected in ninth.
Really, it’s going to be clashes and who you can trust when there are certain clashes. Ottavino hasn’t been perfect, and it looks like even when he completes scoreless innings he does so while getting around traffic due to his inconsistent control (to put it mildly). Matt Barnes is the most talented and the ideal situation is for him to become number one here again, especially if they are without Whitlock, but he will have to prove that he can be trusted again. For me, one of the biggest perks of the Red Sox who could pull out with a playoff offer – probably not very likely, but still possible – is that they could use Barnes enough to get a feel for who he’s headed for. around October.
But beyond those two, I also expect others to throw in big situations. Garrett Richards got the save on Sunday, and his business is playing out in a big way in the shorter stints. He would definitely appear to be in the mix for the big rounds, and he should stay in that mix. I’m still skeptical of Hansel Robles’ leadership, but the point is he’s been pretty good for a few weeks now and will continue to win important innings until he hits another wall. Taylor, Hernandez, and Davis have all shown their ability to pull through if they’re placed in the right situations.
For me, Tanner Houck becomes the most important piece of this puzzle, especially if Whitlock is short on time. He’s mostly lying down, at least compared to a normal lifter, so he could very well take on the throwing of important multi-innings in the fifth and sixth innings. With the number of days off on their schedule, the Red Sox really only needed Houck for another start anyway, so if need be, they can just line things up to have a paddock day. in one of the Orioles games next week and keep Houck ready for any day they may need him out of the pen. And with his stuff, Houck could easily join that late-inning group as well, just as Whitlock straddled the line between multi-innings work and high-leverage exits at the end of the inning.
Whitlock’s injury, if serious, would obviously have a big impact on the Red Sox’s enclosure as he’s their best reliever and missing is a huge missing piece of the puzzle. Having said that, after some thought, I’m not really convinced that this would change much, if anything, the use patterns of the lifter pen. I think over the next couple of weeks, and then into October if they’re still playing at playoff time, it’s going to be Alex Cora really playing games and putting the big group of solid but unspectacular options. in the best position to succeed. So if you’re looking for a closer set, or any sort of gameboard, I don’t think you’ll find it in Boston for a few more weeks, with or without Whitlock.