Mitchell Boggs

Trying to predict Red Sox roster? Remember Mitchell Boggs

Rob Bradford
February 22, 2015 - 2:52 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Looking for a sleeper at Red Sox camp? You might want to put Mitchell Boggs on your radar. Yes, we're talking a relief pitcher who isn't even on the 40-man roster, entering spring training riding a minor-league deal. (Boggs can opt-out of his contract if he isn't on the big league club by April 4.) Still, connecting the dots as to why the big righty might actually have a chance to not only make the team, but ultimately present a valuable piece of the Red Sox' bullpen puzzle, isn't difficult. We have to start with this fact: Boggs has been not good the past two seasons. That is why he had to settle for the minor-league deal. The 31-year-old pitched in a combined 27 games with St. Louis and Colorado in 2013, totaling an 8.10 ERA in 27 games. Last season, he also struggled, this time in the White Sox and Giants' minor league systems, finishing with 8.29 ERA in 37 appearances. So, why the optimism? In this case the cause for the downturn seemingly can be fairly easily identified. Ever since participating in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Boggs had been pitching with a hernia that progressively got worse all the way up until the decision to undergo surgery last October. "It was something that started off as minor, but as time went on it got worse and worse," the affable former college quarterback said Saturday. "It wasn't anything that was debilitating. I could still go out there and pitch. It just took its toll on me. I compromised a lot of things and I paid the price for it." The reason Boggs initially attempted to push aside the discomfort was because St. Louis had identified him as their closer to begin the '13 season. He earned the right to close games after dominating in '12, finishing with a 2.21 ERA in 78 appearances with the Cardinals, leading the National League in holds. That stretch as game-ender, however, turned out to be disastrous, with the reliever ultimately being sent to the minors while carrying a 12.66 ERA. "It was just kind of gradual," Boggs said. "I felt like it was something I could pitch through, and then when I became closer there was no way I was going to lay on the surgery table when I got the job I wanted my entire career. It was a perfect storm of bad situations, and I paid the price for it. I think I've learned from it. I've got a new opportunity here and I think I can take advantage of it." Now that he's free and clear of the pain, Boggs can definitively identify how the injury altered his approach. "I could tell it was affecting the way I delivered the baseball. It changed a lot of little things and caused some discomfort," he said. "At this level, when the little details change your sinker won't be as heavy, or your slider won't be as sharp. It makes a big difference. Then last year it really made a difference. I decided that I needed the surgery to fix some things or I wasn't going to have many opportunities. But I feel really good now. "I had felt like it had been hindering me pretty much all year and I got it done in October. It was something I had pitched with, so I continued to pitch with it. But at the end of the year I knew if I was going to get back at the level I expect myself to be at, the level I had been at for a long time, I needed to get it done. I could have kept pitching with it but I don't think I would have ever fully gotten back to the guy I can be. So I made that decision to get it done. "Nothing changed in between 2012 and 2013 except that. My arm was fine. I just had no explosiveness." The Red Sox were sold. "They communicated with me early in the offseason that it was a major league-type opportunity," Boggs explained. "It wasn't depth for the entire year. It was a situation where they wanted me to come in and compete and try to make this team. That's what I care about. Obviously the expectations here, the fan base and what this organization expects to compete for each year, that's something excites me and something I became accustomed to with the Cardinals. I feel like it's a natural fit. I'm excited about it, for sure."