Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Dave Dombrowski defends Red Sox bullpen on OMF: We don't need to make upgrades

Alex Reimer
August 01, 2018 - 3:10 pm

Dave Dombrowski says he doesn’t think the Red Sox’ bullpen needs to be upgraded. In an interview with OMF Wednesday, the Red Sox’ president of baseball operations defended his decision to not acquire any additional relievers prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. 

“Unfortunately, when I'm talking to you guys here, it sounds like we don't have anybody that can get anybody out in the bullpen, but we have one of the top-ranked bullpens in the game,” he said. “So we're in a situation, when you start looking at them and comparing them to other people, I always say, 'Who are you comparing them to?' When you start scouting, you say, 'Well, Tyler Thornburg, he's back to throwing in the mid-90s, and was one of the top relievers in baseball a couple of years ago.' He's throwing really well for us, we're encouraged by him. Heath Hembree isn't highly regarded as our closer Craig Kimbrel, who's one of the best, and Matt Barnes, who's when you look at his stats, has been one of the best guys in the seventh and eighth inning, but Heath Hembree's done a very nice job for us. We added Ryan Brasier, who's not a big-name player, but he's throwing the ball very well. We have who we just brought back up, Brandon Workman, who we like a lot and has been very effective in the postseason and has experience. Steven Wright is going to come back, and we think he could start or relieve, and it would be very beneficial for him to pitch out of the bullpen this year, rather than start him. Eduardo Rodriguez is a very good pitcher, and we look for him to come back and stretch out to start at some point.”

Since teams only start four pitchers in the playoffs, Dombrowski says additional arms, such as Nathan Eovaldi, Steven Wright or even Eduardo Rodriguez, could pitch out of the bullpen in October. As a result, Dombrowski says he believes there weren’t any upgrades to be made at the trade deadline. The argument about bringing in veteran relievers with experience doesn’t hold a lot of weight with him.

“I can speak here –– all of you would be familiar with the Red Sox in 2013 –– Brandon Workman, who had very limited experience at the big league level, came up and performed extremely well in the postseason,” he explained. “Perhaps the Red Sox wouldn't have won the World Series without him. He didn't have the experience at that time, yet he pitched very well. So I think you combine all of those things together, and hopefully you make wise decisions. If not, then unfortunately it comes back, and you didn't do the best job for the organization at that time. But you also have to consider what other alternatives are out there compared to what you may already have. … We just think these guys will play better than the guys who were available.”

Dombrowski has been knocked for building weak bullpens in Detroit, but he says he brushes that criticism aside. “I've had a lot of bullpens that have pitched very well, too. You're also in a position where, in a lot of cases, you have to determiner where you're going to spend your resources at a particular time. And no matter what people think, in most cases they're limited in some respect. And sometimes you get unfortunate. I remember in 2013, I wish we had a pitcher named Bruce Rondon, who has a very, very good young pitcher, and had pitched great for us –– I remember he pitched against the Red Sox in September. And in the same scenario in the postseason, he came out of the bullpen and was throwing 103 (mph), and struck out David (Ortiz). I remember David saying to one of our guys, 'Jeez, that guy was just overpowering." Then the last week of the season, he hurts his arm and isn't available for the postseason. So you have to deal with those situations at times. That's just part of the game.”

As far as the August 31 waiver deadline is concerned, Dombrowski says he doesn’t expect to make any more moves, given the Red Sox are last in the waiver claim process. He feels he’s put together a championship-caliber roster, especially with the additions of Steve Pearce, Ian Kinsler and Eovaldi.

Of course, that’s assuming Chris Sale can return healthy. While Dombrowski says he’s concerned over the lefty’s shoulder inflammation, at this point, he thinks it’s routine. 

“You're concerned any time any of your pitchers go on the disabled list,” Dombrowski said. “There’s concern in that regard. I think there's different depths of concern. From what has been told to me from our medical staff, this sounds like a lot of instances we've had in the past with our people, where they have some inflammation, they end up resting it, and a lot of times they miss a start and are ready to go. We've had that already with a couple of guys this season, and have had it many times in the past. They're describing this situation where the inflammation is, the joint that's up there, so I think we're in a position: yes, we're concerned at this point. But do I think it's a long-term (injury)? I would be really surprised based on what's been told to me.”

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