One week into the 2020 season, Red Sox relievers own the 15th-best ERA (4.54), the 15th-best FIP (4.21), and the 20th-best fWAR (0.0) in baseball. Put simply, the Boston bullpen has been rather mediocre to begin things this year, which is understandable given the current state the starting rotation is in.
Despite that ‘mediocire’ notion, there have been a handful of Sox relievers who have stuck out in a positive way thus far, and one of them worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees on Friday night. His name? Phillips Valdez.
Yes, the right-hander scattered three hits and struck out three batters in relief of Ryan Weber in Friday’s series-opening loss to New York. With that outing in mind, Valdez has yet to give up a run through his first three appearances and 5 2/3 innings pitched as a member of the Red Sox.
Originally claimed off waivers by Boston from the Seattle Mariners back in February, the 29-year-old hurler has struck out more than 27% of the 22 hitters he has faced so far this season while holding them to a .200 clip.
Because of his strong first impression, Valdez could find himself in more high-leverage spots out of the Red Sox bullpen in the near future. His manager, Ron Roenicke, said as much when speaking with reporters Friday night.
“He’s pitching himself maybe into a bigger role,” Roenicke explained. “That’s why we stuck with him today because he’s been throwing the ball well when he starts going through some of these really good hitters and getting them out.”
Signed by the Indians as a 17-year-old out of the DR back in 2008, Valdez made his major-league debut with the Texas Rangers last June and is under team control with Boston through the end of the 2025 season.
Per Statcast, the slender 6-foot-2, 160 lb. righty primarily works with a changeup and sinker, while his slider and four-seam fastball lean more towards secondary pitches.
At the time he joined the Sox during the first version of spring training earlier this year, Valdez seemed like a long shot to make Boston’s Opening Day roster. But, coming out of the pandemic-induced layoff, the club obviously liked what they saw during Summer Camp and he was in there pitching against the Orioles last Friday.
Now, after getting off to a hot start with his new team, Valdez could become a legitimate weapon out of the Red Sox bullpen if he continues to prove that he can handle tougher situations as a reliever.