We finally have the Red Sox' bullpen blueprint

Rob Bradford
April 04, 2019 - 4:08 am

OAKLAND -- Matt Barnes had just finished what has become his daily postgame treadmill session, still donning a headband and a fair amount of sweat. This time, however, the media gathered around the reliever wasn't there to talk about closing out a game. This was simply about coming in.

After answering all the kinds of questions a closer might be posed just a few days earlier, Barnes was now explaining how it felt to come in during the seventh inning.

More so than what unfolded in Seattle during the Red Sox only other win, this seemed like a much better look into what will be the team's bullpen blueprint.

"Do we?" said Barnes with a wry smile when asked if we did, indeed, now have the plan for how the Red Sox' relief pitching will be presented.

It sure seems that way.

Did it feel good for Alex Cora to finally get a chance to implement this bullpen strategy? "Which one?" This one, he was informed. "To get outs? They’re good, they’re throwing the ball well," was all that the manager would offer.

While the participants might continue to be coy the Red Sox' 6-3 win over the A's offered telling insight into what Cora is dealing with. (For a complete recap, click here.) First came the willingness to use newcomer Colten Brewer in a fairly high-leverage situation, being brought on in the sixth inning with the game knotted up at 3-3.

Brewer -- who some in the Sox organization have started to see similarities to Houston's Lance McCullers -- pitched with confidence and purpose, allowing just one baserunner in his 1 2/3 innings. But when American League home run champ Khris Davis came to the plate with two outs in the seventh, it was Cora's time to send a message. Even with seven more outs to get, this was the kind of scenario where you are going to see Barnes.

The designated pitcher got the better of the designated hitter, ending the seventh with a strikeout.

"It’s going to be fun," said Barnes who stayed on to pitch a scoreless eighth, ultimately earning him a win. "I’ve kind of done a little bit more of that over the last year, too. Moving forward, it’s fun. It really is. Those are the moments you really get fired up for, you get jacked up for. Coming in a big spot and being able to do your job and help the guys win. That’s the most important thing."

Then came the ninth.

Both Ryan Brasier and Tyler Thornburg were warming up to prepare for life after Barnes. If the game remained tied, the likelihood would be Thornburg -- who is coming off two straight impressive one-inning stints -- would come on in. But the Red Sox look the lead, so it was the other closer, Brasier.

The result was Brasier's first career save and a peek into how things are going to unfold in this life after Craig Kimbrel.

"Relievers now, that’s what they do," Cora said. "They close games, get people out. We just need outs. We saw the matchup we wanted. We didn’t hesitate. He did a good job against Davis. Then he didn’t panic when we threw the ball away and there’s a runner at third. ... Brewer was outstanding. Brasier was good too."

"We’ll see how it works moving forward," Barnes said. "They have a great idea of what they want to do. We’ve all bought in. So we’ll keep rolling with it that way."

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