The unexpected problem in this crowded Red Sox bullpen

Rob Bradford
September 04, 2019 - 9:50 pm
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Brian Johnson and Josh Taylor may have made history Tuesday.

If nothing else, it was certainly the rarest of rare Fenway Park moments: two left-handed pitchers were warming up in the home bullpen at the same time.

Why such an occurrence might seem commonplace, it is anything but. For that, you can thank the dimensions of the Sox' bullpen at Fenway.

Because of the tight quarters in the bullpen, any lefty warming up would typically have to work on the mound closest to the field. Any southpaw pitching on the mound closest to the seats would, to be kind, be put in an uncomfortable situation, as Johnson found out Tuesday.

There simply isn't enough room to extend a left-handers arms and legs without the bathroom wall getting in the way.

"Luckily B.J. pitches on the third-base side of the rubber, which allows him … If he pitched on the first-base side we would have to get somebody else up," said Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie, who spent years experiencing the dynamic as a bullpen catcher and coach. "Last year we had David Price on that side and his hand was just missing the wall. Somebody else had the other side."

"Last year against Baltimore I had to warm up on that mound. Chris Davis was coming up for the fifth hitter and somebody else had started warming up before. But we ended up getting out the inning so I only threw like two pitches. That was the only time I’ve warmed up on that mound," explained Johnson, who ended up only having to throw about five pitches Tuesday before switching to the other mound. "This time if I did throw all the way over (on the first-base side of the rubber) my foot would have hit the wall."

While Taylor didn't have to experience the close quarters this time around, he was subjected to the dimensions earlier in the season.

"Warming up before me so I wasn’t going to kick them off their mound so I tried to make it work but it was still a tight squeeze," he remembered. "On my follow-through, my leg swing after I threw the pitch I kept kicking the wall. It’s tough because you’re trying and change your mechanics trying to get ready and not kick the wall but then you’re going away from what you’re doing for however long. It kind of gets in your head that you’re changing your mechanics."

While some might suggest this isn't a rarity, LeVangie points out that the idea of warming up two lefties was even more implausible before Fenway Park's bullpen walls became removable in order to accommodate football. That change -- which took place prior to the 2017 season -- allowed for slightly more room for the relievers.

"It is definitely a tight space," said Taylor, one of four lefty relievers the Red Sox are currently carrying on their active roster.