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Red Sox quietly have fortified bullpen

The SportsXchange

The Baltimore Orioles rode a historic performance from their bullpen to the postseason.

Let's just say the Boston Red Sox were inspired.

While much attention has been paid to the various free agent signings throughout the lineup (Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, et al.) and in the rotation (Ryan Dempster), the Red Sox also have quietly bolstered one of the few decent units from 2012: the relief corps.

That group got a further boost when the Sox completed a six-player trade with the Pirates to acquire closer Joel Hanrahan and infield prospect Brock Holt for right-handed reliever Mark Melancon, first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands, infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr. and right-handed pitching prospect Stolmy Pimentel.

Manager John Farrell immediately tabbed Hanrahan as the team's closer, with incumbent Andrew Bailey shifting to the eighth inning.

Add veteran Koji Uehara to a group that already includes the intriguing Junichi Tazawa and the emerging Andrew Miller, among others, and the Sox have a chance to bring the kind of heat that made the Orioles so formidable last season.

"The one thing (the Orioles) did was, once they got the lead late, they preserved it," Farrell told the Boston Herald. "Winning the games that you're set up to win late in the game goes a long way towards building an overall team's confidence.

"When you look at the emergence of (Baltimore's Pedro) Strop and (Jim) Johnson late in the game, they were lockdown. They also had guys who could step in when either of those two needed a day off and not miss a beat."

The Red Sox are looking to build something similar. Hanrahan, Tazawa, Miller and Uehara have each averaged a strikeout an inning as relievers, and Bailey is only one punchout (188 Ks in 189.1 IP) shy of joining them.

That's a key stat, as far as Farrell is concerned.

"It's probably more strikeout rate than how they do it," Farrell said. "Less balls put in play late in a game is a good thing for all of us."
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