The Boston Red Sox bullpen is going to look quite a bit different this year. With Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly both gone, the back end of the bullpen will change and it will have a ripple effect on the rest of the unit.
Ahead of Opening Day, the Red Sox cut down their roster and made it apparent they will keep eight relief pitchers. They are Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Tyler Thornburg, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, Colten Brewer, Brian Johnson, and Hector Velazquez. On paper, that's not the most inspiring group, especially considering that they have logged a combined 15 saves over the span of their major league careers.
Still, despite the inexperience and lack of name recognition, manager Alex Cora doesn't seem too worried about the bullpen. Recently, he spoke to WEEI's Rob Bradford about the group and expressed confidence in them.
One thing we found out towards the end, that although the people outside our world think we're short on pitching, we're not, and we're going to be fine.
In addition to his vote of confidence in the group, Cora explained why the bullpen could be successful and also placed the responsibility for making it work on himself.
"I think stuff-wise, we're good," Cora said after his team's final Grapefruit League game Saturday. "There are certain guys that obviously they were working on a few things but like I've been saying all along, we've got guys who have got stuff. Hard throwers, cutters, breaking balls, sinkers. Now it's up to me and the coaching staff to identify the matchups and use them. I'm very comfortable."
One of Cora's biggest successes in his first year as a manager was his ability to identify matchups and pick the right players to use in various situations. This became his calling card en route to the World Series title, as he often pulled the right string to help his team to win. If he can figure out the right way to utilize the strengths of his relief pitchers, that could help to make the bullpen less of a weakness.
It may take a couple of weeks for the Red Sox' bullpen roles to be firmly figured out. But for the moment, it appears that this is the group that they are going to run with during the 2019 season.