With Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman now Philadelphia Phillies, a couple late-inning spots just opened up in the back end of the Red Sox bullpen. More specifically, with Workman gone, the Sox do not exactly have a set closer at this point in time.
Right-hander Matt Barnes took charge of that responsibility in Boston’s 8-5 win over the Orioles on Friday and he looked good doing so, needing just 13 pitches to record his first save since last June.
Even with Barnes’ impressive importance fresh in his mind, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke didn’t really commit to the 30-year-old hurler as his set ninth-inning man moving forward.
“No doubt, I have faith in what he can do,” Roenicke said of Barnes during his postgame media availability. “I probably won’t do it the same way that we did with [Workman] because we had Barnes for the seventh or eighth or somebody and then going to [Workman]. This will be a little bit different, probably. I’m sure [Barnes] will get most of the opportunities, but if it matches up better with him in the eighth inning and another closer in the ninth, we’ll do that. I don’t think I’m just going to limit him to doing it for one inning.”
If it’s Barnes getting the call for the ninth, Roenicke named Austin Brice and Josh Taylor as relievers who could close out games if necassary.
“I think we have a couple guys that could do it,” the Sox skipper added. “I’m comfortable with all of them, so I think the match-ups will tell us what to do there.”
Left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez, who worked two scoreless innings in his 2020 debut on Friday after missing time on the COVID-19 related injured list, could be another candidate to close were it not for the plans the Red Sox have for the 23-year-old hurler.
“The only thing with Darwinzon is because we know he can give us two or three [innings], it may be more important to do that in the…sixth, seventh, or eighth, maybe,” said Roenicke. “I think he is more valuable in doing that than just keeping him to one inning. We’ll see as time goes on, but he was coming out [Friday] for the first time. He threw some nasty pitches. I know sometimes he may get a little wild, but his pitches, you see the swings they take and the bats that break and it’s just really good stuff.”
Out of the 40 pitches Hernandez threw in his first outing on Friday, the Venezuelan got the Orioles to swing and miss seven times. Because he accrued two innings of work against Baltimore, his next outing likely won’t come until the Red Sox’ next series against the Blue Jays in Buffalo.