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Friday, May 17, 2019

Impact Relief Pitchers That Got Away from the Boston Red Sox

After an odious start to the 2019 season, the Boston Red Sox have slowly climbed their way back to a level of play expected from them after winning the 2018 World Series. Some areas of concern, like very hittable starting pitching and a lack of timely hitting seems to have largely taken care of itself. However, one area that still remains a major concern is the bullpen. Although hindsight is 20-20, there are a number of relievers excelling this season on different teams, who started out in the Boston organization and are now having their departures from the Hub cause major regret.

Boston’s bullpen ERA currently sits at 3.88, which is the ninth-best mark in baseball. However, they have given up an alarming number of home runs; lack a consistent left-hander and a closer with any significant prior experience; and have little depth. Here are some of the pitchers that Boston let go of in recent years who never latched on with the Red Sox but have turned into relief stalwarts elsewhere.

Ryan Pressly: Boston made the right-hander an 11th-round draft choice in 2007. Working as a starter in the minors, he was solid, but unspectacular and went to the Minnesota Twins via the Rule-5 Draft in 2012. He spent the next five and a half years pitching exclusively out of Minnesota’s bullpen. In 281 games, he posted a 3.75 ERA and was generally a good 10-11th man on a staff. However, following a mid-season trade to the Houston Astros last year, he became unhittable. The 30-year-old throws a fastball that averages 96 MPH, which is 2 MPH higher than when he was a rookie. He also sports a devastating curveball that he throws more than a third of the time. Since joining the Astros, he has appeared in 43 games, allowing just 20 hits and 3 walks in 43.2 innings, while posting a microscopic 0.43 ERA and striking out 52 batters.

Ty Buttrey:  Expectations were high on the right-hander when he was a fourth-round choice in 2012 as a starter out of high school. Solid results in the minors were accomplished around ongoing injuries, which resulted in his eventual transition to the bullpen. He went to the Los Angeles Angels in last year’s Ian Kinsler trade and was quickly brought up to help the team’s relief efforts. Now 26, he has been lights out since, including a 0.86 ERA in 19 games this season, and 26 strikeouts in 21 innings. He is also yet to allow a major league home runs through his first 37.1 innings. Featuring a fastball that averages better than 96 MPH and a good curve, he may be a closer in the making.

Chris Martin: The left-hander was signed as a minor league free agent by Boston following spring training in 2011. He spent the next three years in the organization, and despite positive results, was never summoned to the big-league club. He has bounced around since leaving but seems to have found a home with the Texas Rangers. The 33-year-old is now in his second year with the team and has been one of the most consistent members of their bullpen this season, with a 2.76 ERA and a save in 16 appearances, all while striking out better than a batter per inning.

Jalen Beeks: Given how last season ended for the Red Sox, it’s hard to fault them for trading the left-handed prospect to the Tampa Bay Rays for Nathan Eovaldi. Although it may be one of those rare deals that may work out for both teams, there’s little doubt Boston wouldn’t mind having Beeks back. Pitching as a long man in Tampa’s “Opener” pitching strategy, he has amassed 32 innings in 11 relief appearances this year, striking out more than a batter per inning and posting a 2.25 ERA. He is also an impressive 8-0 in his 23 career relief appearances with his new team. Still just 25, he appears to have just gotten started.

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