BOSTON (CBS) — If you were hoping to find out who the Red Sox would trot out of their bullpen for the ninth inning this season, your watch continues.
Boston manager Alex Cora has an idea of who his closer will be for the 2019 season, but the skipper isn’t spilling the beans at the moment. He’s going to let the candidates, led by Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, do their thing throughout Boston’s spring slate before making any announcement regarding the final inning of games.
“We know who they are. We know the stuff. It’s just about the plan,” Cora told reporters in Fort Myers, Florida on Sunday. “The plan will be out there on March 28. Spring Training, you get people out in the third inning, the fourth inning. Does it tell you that much?
“It’s just a matter of seeing what we’re going to do as an organization. What plan we’re going to do. How comfortable are we with a [set] closer or mixing it up, or getting people out in certain situations? We still have a lot of days to see how we feel about it,” he said. “I don’t think, with the guys that we have, we need them to go out there and strike people out or get people out. We just need them to be ready for March 28.”
There is no clear-cut replacement for Craig Kimbrel, who remains a free agent after locking down 108 games for Boston over the last three seasons. Barnes is the likeliest of candidates after serving as Kimbrel’s setup man for much of the last three years, while Brasier has also shown he’s capable of getting important outs out of the bullpen. Cora also has the likes of Brandon Workman, Brian Johnson and Steven Wright to turn to in a pinch.
“Like I’ve been saying all along, we have people that are going to get people out late in games,” Cora added on Sunday. “We’ve just got to make sure everyone is healthy and ready to go for March 28. If that’s the case, we’ll go one way or another, but I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do.”
We should get a clearer picture of the closer situation as Opening Day in Seattle gets closer, but for now, Cora is keeping his decision close to the vest. Just don’t expect a return for Kimbrel, with the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves reportedly showing interest in the free-agent closer.