Dave Dombrowski on OMF downplays concerns about Red Sox bullpen and pumps up Alex Cora

Alex Reimer
March 30, 2018 - 1:39 pm

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski isn’t pushing the panic button.

In an interview Friday with OMF, Dombrowski addressed the Red Sox’ Opening Day debacle. Their bullpen surrendered a four-run lead in the eighth to the Rays, allowing six runs to cross the plate. Joe Kelly was charged with four runs and Carson Smith was tagged with two.

Despite Kelly's and Smith’s shortcomings Thursday, Dombrowski said he’s confident in his bullpen going forward. 

“I’m not concerned about it,” he said. “We didn’t do the job yesterday, there’s no question about it. That was not a good performance by Joe Kelly. He’s the first to admit it. He’s capable of doing that job. I also think Carson Smith is very capable of doing that job. Carson has been a closer in the past, and his stuff is close to where it used to be –– maybe not quite the same velocity, but he’s got movement and a good slider. We didn’t see that yesterday, so neither one of them pitched up to their capabilities. I think they’re capable of doing that. It wouldn't surprise me if Matt Barnes jumped up and did it. And we’re maybe a month from having Tyler Thornburg back, too. I do think we have the capabilities of handling it in-house. We just didn't get the job done yesterday.”

There were also some questions about rookie manager Alex Cora’s handling of the pen. Left-hander Bobby Poyner didn’t enter the game, even though Tampa Bay sent a couple of lefties up to bat in the frame (Denard Span clocked the game-leading three-run triple). Closer Craig Kimbrel didn’t get up and warm, either. 

Dombrowski said he expects Cora to settle into the job. “I think he’s going going to be a fine manager. I’m very happy he’s with us. I think he brings a lot to the table,” Dombrowski explained. “As I’ve told people, it wouldn’t surprise me in 15 years if you’re talking about veteran managers in baseball and you’re talking about Alex Cora at that point. He has the qualities you’re looking for. He’s a smart individual, he knows the game, he has a passion for it, he’s played it, he understands players, he’s a good communicator. It helps being bilingual. He’s got a presence that people respect, and he can also get close to the guys, but there’s that line they respect. He always had those leadership qualities even as a player, all the way back to his college days.”

Though the Red Sox are still a relatively young team, their window to win with this current nucleus may not be open for much longer. David Price, Chris Sale and Kimbrel can all leave within the next two years. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are nearing free agency as well. 

Dombrowski, however, says he doesn’t buy into that line of thinking. 

“I think people are a little mistaken when they say there’s a window to win. There may be a window to win with the present players that you have, because the game itself –– now after six years people are free agents,” he said. “So keeping the same club together for an extended time period, hardly anybody does that anymore. It’s a very, very difficult thing to do, because there are some payroll restrictions, even when you have a high payroll like ours. But that doesn't mean when you have a situation where you have a good farm system, and you have players coming, you don’t have the ability to go out there and get other free agents that can compliment the players you have. … 
The foundation is there to be a good club for years to come. So I don’t think the window is closing.”