Boston Bullpen Rounding Into Shape

By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — With a clean seventh inning on Thursday night, Red Sox reliever Addison Reed gave his new team a glimpse of what he can bring to their bullpen.

Reed pitched a perfect 1-2-3 seventh inning in Boston’s 9-5 win over the White Sox, needing just 11 pitches to retire the side against the top of Chicago’s lineup. The clean frame washes off the small amount of grime that was lingering from Reed’s Boston debut, when he gave up a solo homer against the Cleveland Indians two nights prior, and provided a peek of the bullpen’s potential going forward.

In acquiring Reed at the trade deadline, Dave Dombrowksi has given manager John Farrell a versatile reliever who can shut down opponents in the innings leading up to closer Craig Kimbrel. Farrell said he’ll be counting on Reed in high-leverage situations at any point over the final innings of a game.

“Addison knows it’s going to be seventh inning or later,” Farrell said after Thursday night’s win. “The seventh and eighth inning, we feel they’re interchangeable based on matchups, based on strengths of individual guys.”

With Reed pitching a perfect seventh on Thursday, Matt Barnes followed with a 1-2-3 inning of his own in the eighth. Brandon Workman got the final three outs of the win, striking out a pair of White Sox in the ninth.

It’s one thing to close out a game with perfection in a non-save situation against the lowly White Sox, who rank 25th in the majors in runs scored, and another to do so in those stressful final innings against a much more worthy opponent. The bullpen will really be tested in four of Boston’s next five series against the likes of the Rays, Yankees and Indians (plus a make-up game against Cleveland), with each of those three teams in the postseason hunt. The playoffs are when a strong bullpen can be a team’s most valuable asset, and the coming weeks will pose a great test for the Red Sox bullpen.

It’s always risky counting on Farrell to piece anything together on a baseball team, but he should have the arms to do it. More reinforcements will arrive soon with Joe Kelly, on the DL since July 15 with a left hamstring strain, expected to return on Saturday. His return will give Farrell another flamethrower for the late innings, as Kelly enjoyed success as one of Kimbrel’s setup men earlier this season, touting a 1.49 ERA in 34 appearances. His role will likely be in flux with Reed joining the pen, but he is another reliable arm that Farrell can mix and match while trying to build a bridge to Kimbrel.

Thursday night’s late-inning performance wasn’t against a powerful opponent, but provided a good glimpse of what could be for the Boston bullpen when having a stockade of solid relievers counts the most.

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