Defining the Red Sox bullpen: Who does what?

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Manager John Farrell often talks about defining the roles of the pitchers in the bullpen. So what are those roles as it currently stands?

The bullpen often plays a key role in the fate of a team, whether it is the success or the downfall of a season. One thing that relievers often say throughout the course of a season is that they want to have their role in the bullpen clearly defined. Oftentimes, once a team clearly defines the role of each reliever, the group begins to pitch better. Take the 2013 season as an example. The early season volatility in the closer role caused some early season hiccups with the bullpen. On any given night, the role of each reliever changed.

Once Koji Uehara established himself as the closer, the bullpen got rolling as every pitcher found its niche relieving.

At this current moment in time, the Red Sox have a group of seven relievers (if you subtract knuckle-balling phenom Mike Carp of course): Uehara, Burke Badenhop, Chris Capuano, Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica and Craig Breslow.

So it bears asking, where are the 2014 Red Sox at in terms of role definition?

Burke Badenhop

Inning Brought In Frequency
3 3
6 1
7 4
8 4
9 1
10 1
11 1
14 1
Innings Pitched Frequency

<1 inning pitched

6
1+ pitched 4
2+ pitched 4
3+ 1

Badenhop has been one of the more interesting cases this season in the bullpen. The righty reliever has played a variety of roles. As of late, Badenhop has turned into a right-handed specialist with the propensity to draw ground ball outs. Badenhop, however, has shown the ability to pitch multiple innings, something that John Farrell has used on occasions where the starting pitcher gets knocked around and needs to be taken out of the game early. Badenhop has been used in situations where the Red Sox have been ahead and behind. Badenhop's role appears to be still evolving. After some early season struggles, Badenhop has been used in more situational opportunities as of late rather than being brought out to pitch an inning. How Farrell uses Badenhop moving forward will be something to note.

Chris Capuano

Inning Brought In Frequency
5 4
6 1
7 3
8 4
9 2
10 1
12 1
Innings Pitched Frequency
<1 inning pitched 6
1+ pitched 8
2+ pitched 3

After starting out the season strong, Capuano has struggled in the month of May, posting a 13.50 ERA in 3.1 innings over five appearances. Capuano started the season as bridge reliever who could throw multiple innings if necessary. However, after pitching extremely well, Capuano started to pitch in more high leverage situations and got more responsibility out of the bullpen. After some late inning struggles to start off May, Farrell will likely begin to adjust Capuano's role as others begin to pitch better.

Andrew Miller

Inning Brought In Frequency
6 1
7 3
8 5
9 8
10 2
Innings Pitched Frequency
<1 inning pitched 9
1+ pitched 8
2+ pitched

2

Miller has only built off the success that he displayed last year. Farrell has begun to use Miller in high leverage situations and allowed him to pitch full innings. Miller has had great success against both lefties and righties, which projects him as a potential set-up man, closing candidate moving forward (Koji is old, despite his youthful enthusiasm). Tuesday's performance, despite the walk-off, only solidifies Miller's slot in the bullpen as one of the most dependable, explosive relievers in late-inning situations.

Junichi Tazawa

Inning Brought In Frequency
7 5
8 9
9 1
10 1
Innings Pitched Frequency
<1 inning pitched 4
1+ pitched 12

Tazawa's role is very well-established. Tazawa, as seen in his inning frequency chart, is almost always brought into the game in situations where the Red Sox are tied or leading. The 27-year-old reliever has been one of the more dependable relievers out of the bullpen this year, although recent struggles has led Farrell to use Tazawa in slightly less pressure-packed situations to regain form. Expect Taz to be the bridge to Uehara the rest of the season.

Edward Mujica

Inning Brought In Frequency
7 3
8 3
9 5
11 1
Innings Pitched Frequency
<1 inning pitched 4
1+ pitched 8

Mujica has not been the pitcher the Red Sox believed they were getting when they signed him to a two-year contract this off season. Mujica has struggled to throw strikes in his limited appearances and recent oblique tightness has prevented the reliever from making a big impact on the bullpen. When Mujica returns, Farrell will likely use him in low-leverage situations. How Mujica responds to these outings and will determine Mujica's role moving forward.

Craig Breslow

Inning Brought In Frequency
6 2
7 4
8 2
9 1
12 1
Innings Pitched Frequency
<1 inning pitched 1
1+ pitched 8
2+ pitched 1

Breslow is beginning to work himself back into the bullpen rotation after starting the season on the disabled list. After starting the 33-year-old in low-leverage situations in April, Farrell has begun to use Breslow later in games in higher leverage situations. Expecte Breslow to have an expanded role in the bullpen as he continues to build arm strength and confidence.

Koji Uehara

Inning Brought In Frequency
8 1
9 15
Innings Pitched Frequency
<1 inning pitched 1
1+ pitched 15

He's the closer, barring injury.

--

Some early season injuries have played a part in the fogginess in some of the role definition of the bullpen. Once Mujica returns to strength, the Red Sox will have a fully healthy bullpen for the first time this season. The Red Sox do have plenty of bullpen backup in the minor leagues, with Drake Britton and Brandon Workman (who is currently working as a starter) as the first call-up if there is any injury.

While the late-game bullpen situation appears to be pretty well-defined (something the Red Sox did not have last year pre-Koji), Farrell still needs to define the bridge innings with Capuano, Badenhop, Breslow and Mujica, a group that has been affected by injury in the early season. The two wild card links in the bullpen at this point appear to be Capuano and Badenhop. The performance of those two will likely affect whether or not the team pursues a reliever at the trade deadline.

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