A few weeks ago, after back-to-back series wins over the Orioles and the Twins, there’s probably nothing the Red Sox wanted to see less than the All-Star break as they seemed to be finally gaining traction in the AL East. A few weeks later, after an absolutely brutal trip to London and multiple purely disastrous efforts from the bullpen, I know that I am certainly looking forward to the break and I have to imagine I’m not alone. At this point, I might even argue that there’s no team (or at least very few) in the league that need this break more than Boston. We can exclude a few guys from this — like say, Rafael Devers, for example — but the team as a whole could probably use a few days off.
The bullpen has been extremely busy and came into this season a little undermanned to begin with. Boston’s relievers have tossed 351 innings this season, the sixth-most in Major League Baseball. They are also tied for the second most blown saves with 18, behind only the Mets and even with the Mariners. Matt Barnes will likely top his 2017 career high in innings pitched (69.2) as he’s already at 37 through 40 appearances, while Ryan Brasier has already surpassed the career high he set in 2018 with 38.1 innings pitched. Five-year veteran Brandon Workman has only topped 42 innings one time in his career and will almost certainly do so well before the end of July this year. His injury history doesn’t exactly make me feel any better about that.
Nothing screams “second-half implosion” more than a maxed-out, subpar bullpen with no real closer. Luckily, help is on the way in the form of Nathan Eovaldi, though even that feels a little desperate to me and may not end up being the answer this team needs. I am also not sold on paying top dollar for a bullpen Band-Aid at the deadline when that realistically should have been the No. 1 priority last offseason. The front office won’t be just taking on a big contract at this point as the price tag at the deadline would be a prospect-filled package instead. And who’s to say this team is only one good reliever away from another World Series run anyway? It’s just pretty infuriating to look at this list of 2018-19 free agent relievers, all of whom ended up with other teams, while the Red Sox seem to find a new way to implode every night, even if it doesn’t always end up with a blown save.
In addition to a breather for the bullpen, the All-Star break should give the front office a few more days to brainstorm what’s going to happen with the fifth spot in the rotation when the second half of the season opens Friday. No one is running away in the AL Wild Card race but I’m not feeling overly confident about the Red Sox being able to snag one of those spots if they continue to trot out this version of the rotation for the next two and a half months — especially considering Rick Porcello’s recent struggles. Per MassLive, Alex Cora won’t rule out Eovaldi returning to the rotation at some point this year but it’s not going to be easy to stretch the oft-injured 29-year-old back into a starting role, especially if he ends up being successful in a relief role that the Red Sox desperately need him to be successful in.
Sure, there are plenty of guys who will benefit from a few days off, but Devers is most definitely not one of those guys and neither is Mookie Betts. After what one would consider a mediocre start to the season, Betts has gotten hot recently (.333 / .426 / .511 since June 23) and probably doesn’t want to take any time off. Sure, the reigning MVP will be making the trip to Cleveland for the All-Star Game but I’m not sure a couple at-bats (at most) is going to help him maintain the hot streak he has been chasing all season. It would be a real shame to see the break kill the momentum Devers and Betts have been building, but that’s baseball I guess. I have significantly more faith in the ability of Betts and Devers to get back on track after a few days off than I have in this taxed bullpen.
I’ve pretty much given up hope on the Red Sox competing for the division, which will sadly snap a three-year streak, but I still think they are more than capable of slipping into the playoffs. Literally anything can happen in the postseason, especially if a team gets hot at the right time, so I’ll be optimistic until the Sox are officially eliminated and playing golf. Until then, I will just continue to close my eyes every time Cora calls to the bullpen while hoping for the best. Hopefully this break will make that a little less stressful moving forward. Wish me luck.