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Why Red Sox are left leaning on Ryan Brasier's left foot

Rob Bradford
August 29, 2018 - 7:49 am

This is what it's come to. Red Sox fans losing sleep over Ryan Brasier's left foot.

How did we get to this point, where the ailment of a guy who was dropped out of the Japanese minor leagues is viewed with so much importance? Well, Tuesday night should have clarified that reality.

The two remaining perceived bits of comfort in the Red Sox' bullpen -- Matt Barnes and Craig Kimbrel -- allowed the worst-hitting team (OPS-wise) in the majors to mount comebacks in both the eighth and ninth innings before Alex Cora's club finally walked-off the Marlins for an 8-7 win. And while the that Miami five-run eighth was unfurling against Barnes and Heath Hembree all eyes were locked onto the host's bullpen.

Where was Brasier? Why wasn't he warming up?

Think about that. This guy who was placed in the middle of spring training with no guarantees of even making a minor league club had become the savior ... the certainty.

"He was out there throwing today and his left foot was bothering him so he was out," Cora said after his team's 91st win. "Hopefully he’ll be back — I mean he felt it today so hopefully he’ll be available tomorrow. Nothing serious but not good today. Not to use him today."

Since Brasier's debut on July 9 in Texas, he has always been viewed as a luxury. Now he is undoubtedly a necessity. And, no offense to the pitcher who just turned 31 years old three days ago, that isn't an ideal situation for what is supposed to be the best team in baseball.

(For Brasier's complete story, listen to the reliever on the Bradfo Sho podcast by clicking here.)

Brasier's production has been unquestioned, allowing just two runs in his 20 innings, holding opponents to a .393 OPS and .141 batting average against. But this is a pitcher who describes his life's biggest pitching moment as the sixth-inning strikeout of Baltimore's Trey Mancini with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth inning of the Red Sox' Aug. 12 game at Camden Yards.

"As far as pressure, with a team that is doing what we're doing, that was probably the most pressure," he explained.

Sure, there was that start in a high school tournament game he was pulled after giving up three runs in two innings in order to be saved for another game that would never come. And, of course, the final few outs notched in securing a no-hitter for Double-A Arkansas on a night the group "The Baja Men" performed their smash hit "Who Let the Dogs Out?" But the kind of pressure the Red Sox are now banking on him stepping in and out of? That is all foreign for Brasier.

It is what it is for the Red Sox and Braiser right now.

Dave Dombrowski banked on the arms he had to figure it out, and maybe they will. Joe Kelly has offered some optimism of late, having not allowed a run in his last six outings after a flawless inning Tuesday night. Steven Wright in on the verge of helping, throwing two scoreless frames for Triple-A Pawtucket. Perhaps Nathan Eovaldi or Eduardo Rodriguez can morph into valued relieving roles as September moves along.

Some roster expansion also figures to help let some of those who are struggling draw back a bit, while perhaps getting a look-see at someone like Travis Lakins.

And things can turn. After the game, Barnes talked about his usual struggles in August and subsequent turnarounds in September.

"I really don’t feel tired at all," he said. "I think Dana (LeVangie) and AC (Alex Cora) have done a great job of managing the bullpen all year and making sure that we were fresh for this push in August and September and into the postseason. Umm, you know I don’t know. Because I’ve always seemed to bounce back in September. September’s always been a good month for me. I don’t know why August. Like I said, I’ll sit down and we’ll crunch numbers tomorrow. We’re going to find a reason why and I’m going to find a reason why and I’m going to change it. You know it’s frustrating, you kind of put all the work in and then you know you go through stretches and struggles and you hurt the team. And at this point in the season when we’re in a close race, making a push to maintain that lead, you just got to be better."

But the Red Sox need to find some sort of consistent, late-inning reliability, the likes of which has escaped the bullpen for months now. And that's why all eyes have turned to Brasier's foot. It's come to that.

"I’m not concerned," Cora said. "I think we need to get better. I think walks are getting up there now. A lot of 3-1 counts, a lot of two-strike hits. That’s not good. They know it. That’s something we’ve been talking about and we trust the stuff but at the end, we have to execute. For whatever we are in the standings, whatever we, we have a lot of margin to improve which is very important. We don’t get caught up on the whole 91 wins. We know we have to be better. We know that and we keep working at it."